Sliding Columbus Crew SC endured what may have been their toughest defeat yet in Week 18, losing 2-1 to the Seattle Sounders after Alex Crognale's mistimed header resulted in Nicolas Lodeiro's stoppage-time winner.
The loss was Columbus' fourth straight, and ninth game without a victory. And afterward, coach Caleb Porter appeared to challenge both the physical talent and mental makeup of a side riddled by injuries and international call-ups.
"We definitely need more quality in the moments — we’re making mistakes that can’t happen at this level," Porter said. "A lot of it is psychological and a lot of it is individual confidence, composure and quality. The more quality you have, the more confidence you have. They’re connected."
“It’s disappointing because they’re not breaking us down,” Porter said. “No team is breaking us down. You see how organized we are. Everything is going as planned. There’s nothing surprising happening in the match whatsoever.”
Porter, who is in his first year following the footsteps of now-USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter, singled out Crognale's error in particular, though he didn't name the defender. Crognale also had a potential equalizer on his foot with the final kick of the match (below).
"You really think about how that goal is scored," Porter continued. "The guy literally throws it out of his hands, and we back head it to Lodeiro to just pop it into the back of the net. It can’t happen at this level. It can’t happen. So we have to look at those mistakes and there has to be accountability. Because we can’t keep losing games that way, because we play well enough. But when you get guys who don’t make routine plays, we’re going to be in trouble.
“Defenders that make it and are on top-level teams, they make those plays 9 out of 10 times and the same thing on the other end. We missed a 2-yard shot. I don’t even know how it goes over the goal. It’s harder to miss than make. And so for me, it’s not enough composure, not enough quality.”