OBETZ, Ohio – How good are the Columbus Crew, really? No one knows for sure.
With a .500 record a third of the way through the season and a huge matchup against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday (5 pm ET, UniMas), the club is still looking for a signature win to hang their hat on this season.
All of the team’s victories have come at the expense of three of the four bottom clubs in the league in terms of points per game, including two wins over D.C. United and shutout wins over Chivas USA and Toronto FC. Combined, those three teams are 5-20-8.
Nine of the Crew's 13 goals scored and all three clean sheets have come against those teams. They have been outscored 9-4 in the other seven matches.
The most impressive result was a 1-1 tie at Montreal on April 13. But there have also been road losses to Vancouver and Chicago, two teams struggling to keep pace this season.
Beginning Sunday against New York, the Crew play three successive games against teams with winning records, and all three in the Eastern Conference. They host Houston on June 1 and take on Philadelphia at PPL Park on June 5.
"We have to win the games against the teams in our conference," head coach Robert Warzycha said. "It's as simple as that, whether they're on the bottom or the top. But obviously, it would be better against the teams that are higher than us."
Columbus had a chance to make a statement by defeating the Red Bulls on May 4 at Crew Stadium, but lost 1-0 on a Tim Cahill goal in the 80th minute.
It was the type of game-breaking play that the Crew feel they may need to secure points at Red Bull Arena. Look no further than the team’s win against TFC, when Federico Higuaín sliced the defense with an entry ball that Dominic Oduro converted for the game-winner.
"I just need that one moment," Oduro said. "Once I get a head start there's no way they're catching me. It's just a matter of me trying to put the ball away."
Craig Merz covers the Columbus Crew for MLSsoccer.com.