It’s always interesting to see how a club’s season really ends. For the Columbus Crew, it was playing defensively with time running out in Washington DC. In need of three points rather than one, for some reason Columbus looked like the team playing for the tie. They paid for it, giving up a stoppage time winner and exiting the playoffs while a chorus of United supporters let them know exactly what had happened.
Some might take issue with making this more about Columbus losing than DC winning, but that’s the perspective Crew coach Robert Warzycha chose following the loss. “You know, unfortunately for us we let D.C. United catch us,” he said. “We scored two goals away from home against a very difficult team and that could have been enough to win the game but we didn’t finish all our chances and we let United score three.”
Columbus technically didn’t exit the playoffs until Houston beat Philadelphia, but essentially the Crew’s chance ended when United scored that third goal. They knew it, the crowd knew it, and now we’re wondering how a team that won four in a row from August 22nd to September 1st managed to crash out of contention.
The easy answer is giving up road points to Eastern Conference teams since they did that at every opportunity late in the season. Still, it’s somewhat bizarre that a team outside of the playoffs can finish the regular season on a nine-game home undefeated run. Go ahead and add in beating Sporting Kansas City at Livestrong Park, drawing with San Jose and LA, and beating Real Salt Lake and Seattle this season. Does Columbus have the look of a team that could finish no better than sixth in the East?
What Crew fans expect is a full season of Federico Higuain. That alone could be the difference in points needed to turn the team from mid-tier to playoff contender. Then again, a lot of the hard work the Crew did – especially against the Western Conference – occurred before Higuain signed. Though he was responsible for that late August streak, all of those wins were against Eastern Conference teams. With that in mind, there’s a good argument that the unbalanced schedule hurt Columbus more than any team in MLS.
Corner Rating: (with 1 the Crew needing substantial work and 11 Higuain leading Columbus to the playoffs in 2013) 9.
Last Week’s Corner: It’s too soon to raise or lower our 7 in response to Liverpool’s decision to revamp Anfield. As we’ve seen in the USA, stadium construction follows trends and nostalgia certainly qualifies. For that matter, so does state of the art that can quickly appear dated or look like it could be anywhere.