COLUMBUS – The Columbus Crew have had a trying week. They were drenched in Guatemala as they fell 2-1 to Municipal. They battled out a 0-0 tie against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night. They saw their lead in the Eastern Conference evaporate and their quest for a third straight Supporters Shield vanish into thin air.
Oh well. They also clinched a playoff spot.
The loss to Municipal lost Columbus the lead in Group B of the CONCACAF Champions League as Santos Laguna pummeled Trinidadian side Joe Public 5-1. Two points now separate the top three teams in the group with one game to play, and the Crew will advance to the quarterfinals with a win against Joe Public. A tie against the Group B bottom feeders would also see the Crew through if Santos beat Municipal in Mexico.
The draw against the Quakes combined with New York’s win over Kansas City knocked the Crew from the top spot in Eastern Conference for the first time since May 20. The Red Bulls are a point up with three games left.
Meanwhile, the LA Galaxy beat Chivas USA to reach 53 points on the year, seven over the Crew and LA owns the tiebreaker. The Crew dropped to fifth in the overall standings after FC Dallas also picked up a win against the Chicago Fire. But the win also put FCD ahead of the Crew in several other tables.
The Hoops equaled Columbus’ MLS 2004 single-season undefeated record of 18 games with the victory over Chicago. FCD can break that and tie Columbus’ overall mark when they take on the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
Last month, FCD broke the MLS mark of nine straight unbeaten road games that the Crew shared with Chicago. Real Salt Lake, meanwhile, got in on the record breaking action and surpassed the Crew’s league record 22-game regular season home unbeaten streak.
A trying week for Columbus, indeed. But despite all the setbacks and bad news, the Crew remain positive.
“We’re still in the hunt for every trophy we’ve wanted,” midfielder Kevin Burns said.
The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is one of the trophies that the Crew want. Columbus travel this week to Qwest Field for Tuesday’s final against the Seattle Sounders to put the first hardware of the season on the line.
But even if the Crew miss out on the Open Cup and finish second in the East, the team is confident it can win its second MLS Cup in three years.
“Last year we were first and we lost in the first round so I don’t think it matters as long as we are playing well,” Burns said. “I think we are.”
Will and a Way
It was appropriate that William Hesmer established the Crew season shutout mark with his 11th Saturday against San Jose. At the other end stood the ‘keeper who had established the previous record.
Jon Busch had 10 clean sheets in 2004. Hesmer tied the mark in 2008 before eclipsing Busch on Saturday.
“We bring the best out of each other,” Hesmer said.
The four-game winless streak (0-2-2) is the longest since losing the final two games of the 2009 regular season and two playoff games to Real Salt Lake. The last time the Crew went at least four regular-season games without winning was a 0-2-5 stretch to open 2009.
The Crew have won only seven of their last 19 matches (7-7-5) since a 6-0-2 star this season.
The Crew have also been shut out in three straight home games, a franchise first. The goalless streak in Crew Stadium is 280 minutes.