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Eastern Conference Championship

Another blown lead, another "gut check" for Columbus Crew: "No way this can happen again"

On Saturday, for the second time in two games, the Columbus Crew gave up two leads in a match and watched a win slip through their fingers.

Two weeks ago, a trip to Portland resulted in a 3-3 draw, and this week the Crew had a 2-1 lead in the 81st minute, but allowed two late goals to Toronto FC to fall 3-2.

The team said they were “disappointed” with the draw in Portland, and their feelings were even worse after the loss in Toronto.

“This was a very winnable game,” defender Josh Williams said after the match. “I guess the positive is that we have two more games this week to correct this. But it's very disappointing.”

Head coach Gregg Berhalter said that his biggest disappointment was team's inability to close out the win after they had control of the match for 81 minutes.

“We couldn't close it out,” he said. “It's about execution in the latter stage of [the game]. Specifically, defending the penalty box, clearing balls that don't turn into second balls, and keeping the ball in the later stages of the game.”

But Berhalter wasn't pleased with the first 81 minutes, either.

“We didn't play well, that's for sure,” he said. “Our normal game, our control of the game, movement wasn't there. Having said that, we still put ourselves in a position at the end of the game to get a result, and we didn't do that.”

Star Toronto forward Jermain Defoe once again wreaked havoc like he has all season, scoring two goals himself. And while Berhalter didn't pin the loss only on those plays, he said he wasn't surprised at Defoe's performance.

“I think a lot of teams are struggling defending him,” he said. “He's a quality player. He's got good quickness, he can finish well, and you've got to be clever when you defend against him.”

Clever defending was certainly not part of the Crew's night, and individual errors on the defensive end led to all three Toronto goals. But Berhalter didn't want to name any names, though he admitted that his back line could have done better.

“I'm not going to single anyone out because we're a team and we win as a team and we lose as a team,” he said. “There are some certain situations we could have done better on, but it's a team effort.

“When you get to the late stages of the team, you need the whole team to be on the same page and pull in the same direction, and I think from that standpoint we could have been a little bit better.”

The Crew now have only one win in their last 10 matches, and have made a habit of blowing leads. Williams knows the team needs to right the ship before it bleeds away any more points.

“Everybody needs to look in the mirror, and we need to have a little gut check here,” he said. “We can't have any more games like this and disappointments like this. This is strictly between the players. This is something that we need to look at each other and rally around this.

“There's no way this can happen again.”