After a 3-1 loss in a "must-win" match against the Houston Dynamo, the Columbus Crew are talking about a familiar storyline as the cause of their recent swoon: individual mistakes.
"They played well in the first half, and they scored two goals on our turnovers," head coach Robert Warzycha said. "Playing away from home, we have to make sure we're solid in the back, and don't lose the ball in bad areas. When you play against a good team, you're going to get punished."
Mistakes and missed opportunities have been a hallmark of the team's skid, and Saturday's loss was no different. Highlighted by Augustin Viana's giveaway that led to a Dynamo breakaway and eventual goal, the Crew gave the ball away in dangerous areas, not only leading to goals, but killing the team's game plan to control possession.
But in the second half, when momentum seemed on Columbus's side, giveaways weren't the team's concern, but instead another all-too-familiar theme of the Crew's season came back into play.
"The story of the game is the same," Warzycha said. "We created the chances, we could have scored goals, and we didn't."
Bernardo Anor, Ryan Finley (as a second-half substitute) and Federico Higuain all had chances on goal, but none were able to finish. The team's only goal came on an own goal by Houston's Kofi Sarkodie in the 75th minute.
"I think I had a couple more chances tonight that I probably should have put away and it probably would have changed the game," Finley said. "You just get unlucky sometimes in this sport, and the most important thing is to stay positive and stay strong in the locker room. Things will turn around eventually."
For forward Dominic Oduro, things don't seem as optimistic, and after two last-minute losses followed by the Houston defeat, the Ghanaian says spirits are low.
"We had our chances, we should have put them away, but it didn't happen," he said. "We've just got to keep our head up. It's really tough right now. There's not a way to express our [depression] right now."
The Crew now sit a full ten points behind Houston for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and have a 1-6-0 stretch to blame for the deficit. They will try to end their slump next Saturday, when they host the streaking New York Red Bulls, who enter the game on a 3-0-1 run and now sit atop the Eastern Conference.