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Leg 1
11/23 FINAL
1LA
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11/30 9:20pm
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LA
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Western Conference Championship
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Eastern Conference Championship

Columbus Crew cite fatigue, late loss of Federico Higuain as reasons they can't keep magic going

After a 2-0 win this past week in his first match as interim head coach of the Columbus Crew, Brian Bliss got a rude awakening on Saturday as the Crew were heavily outmatched in a 3-0 loss at Sporting Kansas City.

In an all-too-familiar story for the Crew, the team found themselves down a goal in the first 10 minutes of the match, and in a 2-0 hole heading into the half.

"Things seemed to be going our way," Bliss told reporters, "but we had a mental lapse on a short corner that caused a PK and then a giveaway at the back, whether it was field-induced or not, I don't know. But that was the second goal, and from there it was an uphill battle.”

Before the match even began, the Crew had bigger concerns than the field conditions that Bliss mentioned. The game was the team's third in eight days, and with a long injury list and 90-degree Kansas City weather, fatigue was almost certainly an issue.

“We hit a couple injuries here and there during the week, and some guys dropped off,” Bliss said. “So I had to really come back with the same guys from [Wednesday's victory over the Houston Dynamo] who really put out a tremendous yeoman's effort against Houston, so I'm sure there were some tired legs.”

Adding to the lack of depth for Columbus was the late scratch of Designated Player Federico Higuaín, who was expected to make his first start after a two game disciplinary suspension. In Friday's training session, the Argentine star tweaked his left adductor, and did not make the trip for what seemed to be precautionary reasons. The match would have been Higuaín's first under Bliss.

“We worked pretty much the last few days in between with him playing in the middle of the part," Bliss said. "We had a role carved out for him. But he went down at the last second and we had to make a change. I think maybe as a group, he's our leader, and when he dropped out, it's a blow to the staff but it's also a blow to the guys he plays with because we lean on him a little bit, just like every team leans on their DP.”

Players seemed ready to move on from the loss and look toward next weekend's trip to Montreal, and defender Chad Barson said that the team is eager to have a full work week without the interruption of a Wednesday match.

“I think we need more time together and with coach Bliss' style and philosophy, and that will come with a normal work week this upcoming week,” he said. “And I'm really looking forward to it because I know we have an honest group of guys and a group of guys that are going to work hard and put in the work to make sure that we get results.”