COLUMBUS, Ohio – A split-second of indecision here; miscommunication there and an unlucky bounce or two.
Combine those elements with some flat-out poor play at times and it’s not hard to picture the Crew in their current slump.
Columbus’ winless streak extended to five games this past Saturday when Chad Barrett finished the rebound off Landon Donovan’s shot in the final minute of stoppage time for a 1-0 Galaxy victory at Crew Stadium.
“They punished us at the end,” midfielder Robbie Rogers said after the game. “There was a little mix-up.”
A little turned out to be a lot as the Crew (11-11-8) fell into a second-place tie with Sporting Kansas City, a point behind Eastern Conference leaders Houston.
The build-up to the goal had a nervous clearance by Shaun Francis that was quickly headed back by the Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez. What followed was Crew defender Julius James not playing the ball before Donovan got to it and a lot of ball watching by the Crew, including Barrett running past Sebastián Miranda to get into position.
“We let the ball bounce at the end of the game and it cost us a goal,” head coach Robert Warzycha succinctly said after the result.
The Crew probably deserved a better fate as they outplayed the Galaxy the final 10 minutes and earlier had a Chad Marshall header blocked on the goal line by midfielder Michael Stephens.
“As we were creating chances, at one point, we kind of took a breath and that’s when they scored,” forward Emilio Rentería said.
Such has been the case since losing 6-2 at Seattle on Aug. 27 to start the slide.
There have been at least four instances over the past month when goalkeeper William Hesmer and his defenders were not in sync as to who should play a ball, and goals resulted each time.
Lax marking from front to back was a hallmark during the first three of those games when Columbus allowed 12 goals. And, yes, the Crew have been unfortunate – if the rebound Saturday was a tick later, it’s doubtful Barrett would have gotten off such a clinical shot.
“It seems like we’re just unlucky,” Rogers said. “The ball lands right to Chad Barrett. We need to keep working and create our own luck.”
A number of things
273: Minutes since the Crew last scored a goal from the run of play. That’s been since the 87th minute vs. Toronto FC on Sept. 10. Columbus had a pair of penalty kicks by Andrés Mendoza in the next match and have been blanked in the past two games.
50: Points in the full 30-game schedule last season, compared to 41 through 30 of 34 matches this year. The Crew had 49 points in 2009 and 57 when they won the 2008 MLS Cup.
4: Home shutouts suffered this season. Columbus are 0-2-1 in their past three home games and play their Crew Stadium season finale on Sunday vs. D.C. United.
3: Consecutive road losses heading into Wednesday’s game at Sporting Kansas City.