After a heartbreaking stoppage-time loss to the New England Revolution last weekend, the Columbus Crew thought they couldn't feel much worse after a match.
But after blowing a promising 1-0 lead in the closing moments of Saturday's Trillium Cup match against Toronto FC, it's safe to say the club is taking stock of what’s gone so wrong over a frustrating five weeks on the field.
“When they pile on like they're doing, these are testing times,” goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum told media after the match. “I think each person has to look at themselves, and it starts with me. I didn't obviously have the best game of my life today, and I need to take from this, 'What can I do to get better?'
“Each person has to have that mentality, and close out games.”
Dominic Oduro gave the Crew an early lead, and the team seemed to play a far superior opening 45 minutes, but then spent most of the second half defending Toronto attacks. The nonstop defending culminated in two late Toronto goals that seemed to be coming for the entire half.
“The first 45 minutes was much better than the second 45 minutes,” Crew head coach Robert Warzycha said. “We were defending pretty well, but then we forgot that we are here to score goals, too. You can't defend for 45 minutes and be successful, so I think we got punished for that.”
The Crew have now lost five of their last six games dating back to June 22, including three games in which they gave up second-half leads. Following an 87th-minute goal from TFC’s Jonathan Osorio and then the game-winner from Andrew Wiedeman in stoppage time on Saturday, the Crew have given up six goals after the 85th minute in their past three losses.
“I'm just kind of in disbelief right now with this streak of games we've had here,” defender Josh Williams said. “We just lost focus there at the end.”
- STANDINGS: Where do the Crew stand now?
The loss was also the first of its kind for the Crew, who had never been beaten at BMO Field in eight games leading up to the match.
“I thought the game played out the way Toronto and Columbus games play out usually,” Gruenebaum said. “Just really chippy and very direct, and it seemed like we always get a lead at some point. Then what's been happening this year seems to be pretty consistent; we're giving up late goals and allowing other teams to get back in and use that momentum to bury us late when we should be closing out games. It starts with me. Everyone just needs to do better.”
Williams was asked after the match how the team can stop allowing these kinds of late goals. His answer came quickly.
“Toughen up,” he said. “Play with more heart.”