A difficult opening to the season is not likely to get any easier on Saturday when the Crew plays at D.C. United. Two road games against Western Conference foes, followed by a home game against defending Supporters' Shield winner San Jose, have yielded a 1-1-1 record and an understanding that there is room for improvement.
A difficult opening to the season is not likely to get any easier on Saturday when the Crew plays at D.C. United.
Two road games against Western Conference foes, followed by a home game against defending Supporters’ Shield winner San Jose, have yielded a 1-1-1 record and an understanding that there is room for improvement.
“We are what we are: We have one win, one draw and one loss,” coach Robert Warzycha said. “ Obviously it could be worse, but it could be better.”
It’s a fair assessment of the Crew at this stage of the season. Although Columbus leads Major League Soccer with five second-half goals, a few defensive hiccups have cost the club key points.
A 3-0 win at Chivas to open the season was followed by a 2-1 loss to Vancouver. In that game, the Crew tied the score one minute into the second half before a misplayed pass deep in its end led to the Whitecaps’ go-ahead goal 11 minutes later. One week later, the Crew gave up a 1-0 lead against the Earthquakes five minutes after scoring, as the visitors carved up the Columbus midfield.
“Right now we’re all right, but definitely I think we’ve underachieved our goal for this month,” midfielder Justin Meram said. “I feel like we could have gotten a win against San Jose and even gotten a win or a tie in Vancouver. Then you’re looking at 3-0 with nine points or (2-0-1 with) seven points, and now we’re sitting on four points. It’s not going to get much easier.”
It’s all part of a stretch in which the Crew will play five of its first seven games away from Crew Stadium, ending with an April 20 game at Chicago. The schedule balances out with a three-game home stretch to follow, but for now the focus is on the Crew’s first game against a fellow member of the Eastern Conference.
United also has a 1-1-1 record and looks much like the team that advanced to the conference championship last season before losing to Houston.
“They have the same players,” Warzycha said. “I think they’re playing only better. They are a solid team, and they have good players and do a good job of organizing.”
Defender Tyson Wahl, signed by Columbus in the offseason, said Warzycha pointed out the opening stretch to his players during the preseason.
“You just have to step up to the challenge,” Wahl said. “You’re going to have to play those teams anyway. We’re definitely looking to end March with a bang and start conference play off strong.”
Although the Crew will be without forward Jairo Arrieta, who will be with the Costa Rican national team, midfielder Eddie Gaven is likely to return after missing two weeks because of an ankle injury. Wahl also is likely to play despite suffering a minor concussion last weekend.
There’s a long way to go in the season, but Warzycha feels the Crew is on the right track.
“Overall, we’re getting there slowly,” he said. “We brought in some new players and there’s going to be time before we make great strides, but I’m happy with the experience that we have and the attitude during practice.
“When they’re stepping on the field they want to get better.”