The Columbus Crew’s winless streak that spanned six games from Aug. 21 to Oct. 2 cost the team the No.1 spot in the Eastern Conference and threatened to knock it out of playoff contention.
Columbus fell behind, 1-0, to D.C. United on Sunday and the team was one half of soccer away from going winless for a seventh consecutive game.
Columbus goalkeeper William Hesmer said there was a do-or-die attitude discussed amongst the players in the locker room at halftime.
“Now is the time,” Hesmer said of the halftime rhetoric. “If you want to make the playoffs and if you want to be a championship team, now is the time. There is no more time to mess around.
“You’re either going to fold and we’re all going to be upset, or you’re going to step up and this could be a building block to something special.”
The Crew answered the call, rallying for two goals in the second half to win the game, 2-1, and snap the six-game winless streak. Midfielder Eddie Gaven, whose diving header in the 60th minute proved to be the game-winner, said the game was a mental turning point for the team.
“We haven’t had too much luck the past two games or so,” Gaven said. “But if you go out there and you work hard, luck is going to come your way a little bit.”
The win propelled Columbus into a second-place tie with the Philadelphia Union, one point behind conference-leading Sporting Kansas City.
The top-three teams automatically qualify for the playoffs. If the Crew fall out of the top three spots, it could still make the postseason by clinching one of the four wild card spots.
Hesmer said the team is better than that.
“We are without a doubt one of the top-ten best teams in this league,” he said. “We’ve got to prove that at the end of the season in the standings. Ultimately, we want to prove that we are one of the top-three in the (conference). I think we are there.”
Coach Robert Warzycha said that during the winless stretch, he never felt the team was in danger of missing the playoffs.
“Sometimes with a young team and so many new players, it can be difficult to pick up the pieces,” he said. “But with the win (Sunday), I think we are getting forward… If we win the next two games and we play better, then we can really push it forward into the playoffs.”
The Crew will hit the road for its final two games with a match against the New England Revolution on Oct. 15 followed by a meeting with the Chicago Fire on Oct. 22.
Hesmer said the team controls its own destiny.
“It’s going to be a fight and it’s going to be in our hands,” he said. “If we go and get the results that we’re capable of getting, then we’ll be alright.”