It's official: not only were the Columbus Crew firmly outgunned in their 3-2 loss to the New England Revolution, they were officially eliminated from playoff contention.
There was no shortage of action in a must-win game for both teams, and after Columbus tied the game twice, a third New England goal was too much to overcome. And though it was an exciting match for spectators, interim head coach Brian Bliss said the way the game progressed was a necessity, not a preference.
"It was entertaining if you were sitting in the stands. Sitting on the bench, it's a heart attack a second," he said after the match. "We couldn't play any way other than that way, because of what was at stake. They were in the same boat as we were, and the game opened up after the first goal."
The game "opened up" even further when the Crew inserted forward Aaron Schoenfeld for Ethan Finlay at halftime. The 6'4" forward gave the Crew a different dimension, and in the wide-open match that was transpiring, Bliss and assistant Mike Lapper thought Schoenfeld could make the difference.
"There was a little more direct play going, and we decided at half time that if both teams are going to play a little more direct and look for second balls, that [Schoenfeld] would be maybe a little bit more helpful than some of the guys we had on the bench," Bliss said.
Schoenfeld assisted the first Columbus goal to Dominic Oduro and scored the second himself, but the last-ditch effort switch to three defenders ultimately compromised the Crew defense too much.
"Unfortunately, we let too many easy goals in," defender Tyson Wahl said. "We had a good fight in the second half, but it wasn't enough tonight. I think we needed to be sharp on a couple more defensive plays, and we weren't."
For Bliss, the move was a calculated risk, and one that he knew may cost the team goals. But facing elimination with a loss, he had no choice.
"If this was game 17 of the season, we wouldn't have been playing three in the back when we tied it up 2-2 or 1-1. That's insanity," he said. "But we know the way the game has got to be played to get the results, so there was a high risk involved."
Columbus will try to reverse roles and try to play spoiler to the Revolution when they face off for the second week in a row next Sunday, this time in Crew Stadium. Though there may not be playoffs for the Crew to play for, Bliss says they won't be putting out a subpar product.
"We're not all the sudden going to turn around and throw out seven guys that haven't played all season," he said. "We've got to go play and we've got to go play for our fans and for ourselves. So it's not certainly going to be a game we're throwing away, by no means."