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Eastern Conference Championship

Crew View: Hard work not enough to overcome road woes

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Columbus Crew are rightly proud that they and Real Salt Lake are the only teams to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs for the past four seasons. But the plaudits stop there.

On Thursday night in frigid Commerce City, Colo., the Crew saw their season end for the third straight year without moving past the first round following a 1-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids in a wild card elimination match.

HIGHLIGHTS: Rapids 1, Crew 0

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“We worked hard,” midfielder Eddie Gaven said. “Sometimes, even if you work hard, you don’t win. It’s a shame, but we should keep our heads up.”

Although many of the faces were different – only four players participated in last year’s 1-0 loss at Colorado in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals – the result was familiar.

The Crew are 0-4-3 in their past seven away postseason matches and have been blanked in five of them, including 1-0 defeats in three straight and four of five since 2004.

“[Colorado] played hard as well and I thought they did a really good job making it hard for us to get clean looks at goal, so credit to [the Rapids],” Gaven said.

The Crew’s fate may have been determined over the final two months when they went from the top of the Eastern Conference into the wild card by going 2-6-1.

Still, after winning at New England on Oct. 15, they entered the final weekend with a shot at first, but wins by Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo coupled with the Crew’s 3-2 loss at Chicago doomed them to a road match. Columbus won only four of 17 away from home in the regular season.

“That’s why the last few games were important for us,” coach Robert Warzycha said. “Too bad we had the last two games on the road.”

A number of things

  • The Crew got maximum points when scoring first this season – but that that happened only nine times – while their opponents were 4-14-5, including the playoff game, after scoring first. There were three scoreless draws.
  • The Crew did not lose a game when ahead at the half, but again, the problem was low number of games in which they could pull that off. They were only 4-0 and amazingly led only once at the break at home – a 2-1 advantage vs. Colorado on June 26.

What lies ahead

The season probably isn’t over for the reserve team, who are awaiting a match with D.C. United to be rescheduled from Oct. 2. The Crew reserves are 8-1 and can finish with the most points in the Reserve League because Seattle (8-1-1) have finished their season.