COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tactics and players are interchangeable. But getting the Crew to change their mind set will be the tougher task for coach Robert Warzycha as Columbus try to shake off an embarrassing 3-0 loss at San Jose in time for another away match on Saturday at Portland.
The defeat last Saturday at Buck Shaw Stadium snapped a seven-game unbeaten streak and continued the Crew’s inconsistent effort road efforts, where they are 0-2-2 and have been outscored 7-2.
“The most important thing on the road is not the physical side — it’s mentally,” Warzycha said. “We have to be stronger mentally to play away games. It’s a long season. To play away from home like we do at home is going to take a lot of time.”
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San Jose had not won at home this season but broke through with three goals during a 12-minute span early in the second half.
“We just didn’t match their intensity,” defender Chad Marshall said. “We had a lapse for about ten minutes and they finished their chances. It’s unfortunate.”
Midfielder Dilly Duka agreed the Crew lost focus.
“We just came out slow in the second half and got caught up in their game,” he said. “They brought a lot of energy and we didn’t match their fight. We were a bit complacent.”
Complacency is another word for content. Warzycha has made few lineup changes since the opener and not gone very deep into the bench as Columbus blazed out to a hot start in 2011.
But the Crew (3-2-4) are not a well-oiled machine running on all cylinders. They have one win in four matches and their eight goals scored are second-worst only to Philadelphia.
Columbus have suffered the most fouls in the league and are seventh in taking corner kicks, yet have not a single set-piece goal. Their open play production is horrid with only two scores at even strength. They have two with a man advantage and also four penalty kicks.
Warzycha is still looking for a playmaking forward behind striker Emilio Rentería because the 4-5-1 doesn’t scare anybody with the current personnel. He may have to consider two forwards again and utilize the well-rested Andrés Mendoza and Jeff Cunningham or inject some new blood in the middle of the pitch.
Defensively, the Crew were sound until the San Jose debacle exposed rookie left back Rich Balchan, who had his worst outing since the first game.
With Shaun Francis close to returning from an ankle sprain that has kept him out all season, that’s one spot that is up for grabs. Another could be center back if Warzycha feels veteran Andy Iro is ready to challenge Julius James (pictured above).
Blowing up the starting XI isn’t necessary because the Crew are not a bad team, but they face a stiff challenge against the expansion Timbers, who are 4-0 at home with a 9-4 advantage in goals.
That’s a recipe for disaster unless the Crew can stiffen their resolve.