TORONTO — Amid the quiet of Crew SC’s locker room Friday night after a 5-0 loss to Toronto FC at BMO Field was a common message perhaps best summarized by Crew midfielder Justin Meram.
“This is one of the worst losses we’ve had in a while, but it’s one game out of 34,” Meram said.
The sun will come up on 20 more Crew gamedays in 2017, but a Major League Soccer season is not a string of 34 independent events.
Wednesday’s game at Mapfre Stadium against the Seattle Sounders will go a long way in defining the resolve of a team that on Friday took its worst loss in years and one of the worst losses in Major League Soccer this season. "Now what?” is a question Crew SC (6-7-1) will soon have to answer.
Crew coach Gregg Berhalter and several players expressed confidence in the team’s ability to turn the page. Whether or not the team can act on that confidence will be determined Wednesday, but first, some context on the result Friday’s game.
In Berhalter’s three-plus years with the team, the 5-0 defeat is, from a goal differential standpoint, Crew SC’s worst loss by two goals.
In a lost 2016 season, Crew SC lost 3-0, 3-0 and 4-1, but never reached a margin of four goals in a loss. The 2015 Crew took a 5-2 loss to Orlando City SC on Aug. 1, then proceeded to win seven of its final 11 games to finish second in the Eastern Conference.
Crew SC is not the only team to take a five-goal loss this season — expansion side Minnesota United lost 6-1 to Atlanta United in the club’s first-ever home game — but there’s no placing a positive spin on a 5-0 loss, especially when Toronto FC’s top two goal-scorers, Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco, were absent.
Moments after the loss, Berhalter and several Crew SC players were blunt in assessing the team’s performance.
“What I think happened was I think we got sidetracked with what the intention was,” Berhalter said, asked about Crew SC’s effort. “When I think about giving up two goals up a man, is below standard and that’s unacceptable. I think for the most part we fought, but it was too little today.”
Center back Jonathan Mensah was critical of his own performance, in which he committed fouls that led to Toronto’s first and third goals, as well as a team performance in which Crew SC was unable to punch back.
“I think as a team we didn’t show up today,” Mensah said. “We are all disappointed for this result and it’s a tough one. We didn’t show up and we need to go back and correct things.”
Captain Wil Trapp predicted tough conversations between Crew players in the coming days as well as lineup changes for Wednesday’s game agains the Sounders.
“That’s a performance where they out-competed us on every single facet of the game. The chances we did have, we didn’t finish,” Trapp said. “Then we just gave up five goals and didn’t score one. You analyze, you look at it, but we’ve got to turn around and get ready for Wednesday.”
To Trapp, a quick turnaround leading into Wednesday’s game is a positive.
“It’s always surprising (when the mentality is absent). It was 5-0. That’s how quickly it can unravel in this league and that’s what quality teams can do to you, so we have to get that right,” Trapp said. “It’s just going to take a lot of focus and a lot of soul-searching, I think, at this moment.”
Berhalter made his earliest non-injury substitution of the season Friday, abandoning a 4-1-4-1 formation in the 40th minute by bringing in Artur, who missed last week’s game with a groin strain, and pulling Meram.
“It was a tactical move based on what we needed to restructure the team,” Berhalter explained of the move. “We wanted to get another number deeper in midfield and it was a structural move.”
A video replay showed a player in Meram who was, by his body language, visibly frustrated by being subbed off. In his career as a starter, Meram has been replaced after 45 minutes on several occasions. Friday’s game marked the first instance of Meram, as a starter in MLS, coming out prior to the 45th minute.
“I have no clue, so that’s up to (Berhalter) making a decision,” Meram said, asked if the substitution had been explained to him. “He has to make a decision. That’s it.”
Allowing five goals tends to skew things, but Friday’s clunker pushed the Crew’s goals against tally to 24. D.C. United has only played 11 games to Crew SC’s 14, but is No. 2 in goals against the Eastern Conference with 19.
In the Western Conference, Real Salt Lake has allowed 24 goals in 11 games. Minnesota United, also just 11 games into its inaugural MLS season, has allowed a league-high 30.
Fifteen of the 24 goals allowed have come on the road.
Trapp said he is looking forward to Crew SC returning to Mapfre Stadium after a three-game road swing, but made clear that a return home in itself isn’t a guarantee of righting the ship.
“Should be, hopefully, but we have to make that happen though,” Trapp said. “We can’t just hope that it does (turn around). We have to really dig in and realize we never want to feel this way again.”