As has been the story for the Columbus Crew multiple times in 2014, their 1-1 draw in Chicago Saturday came after a lackluster opening half.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter called the team complacent in the first half, and said that the team didn't come out sharp enough in the opening period.
"In the first half, we lacked the desire, pure and simple," he said. "In the second half, when we started playing, there was combination and desire all across the board, the defensive side and offensive side."
Midfielder Ben Speas said the team wasn't pleased to be down 0-1 at the half, and echoed Berhalter's assessment of their play.
"It was just too stagnant in the first half," he said. "We didn't really have much going. It's on all of us, I guess.
The Crew responded well enough in the second half, with Federico Higuain scoring just 12 minutes into the final period to pull the Crew level. Columbus took the front foot following Higuain’s equalizer, and would’ve gone ahead if it weren’t for some fine play from Chicago ‘keeper Sean Johnson, who came up with a pair of fantastic saves to deny Speas and midfielder Ethan Finlay.
"I thought we were pushing hard to get the second one," Speas said. "We had some good chances, [Johnson] made some nice saves. We pushed, but we wish we could have come away with three [points]."
A win would’ve been a big boost for the Crew’s playoff hopes. Saturday’s draw leaves the team in fifth in the crowded East, one point ahead of the sixth-place New England Revolution for the conference’s final playoff spot.
That knowledge – combined with the sour taste about the team’s slow start on Saturday – has midfielder Wil Trapp feeling mixed emotions about the 1-1 draw in Chicago.
“The east is tough," Trapp said. "There are a lot of teams battling for those playoff spots. To come away with a point, we're not happy with that, but it's better than no points at all."
From here, Berhalter said, the Crew will need to focus on coming out of the gate strong.
"You show up from minute one; that was the message to the guys," he said. "These games, it doesn't take much to decide them. And we have to have that same desire from the opening whistle, and we will."