With 24 matches in the books and the club sitting in third place of the Eastern Conference table (34 points), the Crew SC took the bye week as a time to recoup and refocus the collective mindset in advance of the final 10 matches of the season.
Leading up to the bye week, their play has been less than consistent, allowing nine goals in a three-game stretch. After losing a three-goal lead to Toronto FC (3-3 final) July 25, Orlando SC found the back of the net five times on their way to 5-2 thrashing of the Crew SC August 1. One week later, they traveled to the mile-high air of the Colorado Rapids and walked away with a 2-1 road victory.
Led by Week 23 MLS Player of the Week and Golden Boot leader Kei Kamara (17 goals), the club put the poor performances of the past few weeks squarely in the rear-view mirror.
They begin a stretch of three games in 11 days on August 19, hosting NYCFC at Mapfre Stadium. Three days later, they host Sporting KC (August 22), before heading to the Big Apple to lock horns with NYCFC (August 29) once again. With NYCFC trailing the Crew SC by 10 points, two wins against an Eastern Conference opponent would allow for some separation for Columbus in the top-half of the table.
Leading up to the final 10 games, Crew SC was active in signing players to address their needs. Midfielder Cedrick Mabwati (transfer), defender Harrison Afful (Discovery Signing), forward Jack McInerney (trade) and defender Gaston Sauro (transfer) have all joined Columbus. Afful and Sauro bolster a backline that, at times, has been suspect this season.
These signings bring depth and competition for playing time to the Crew SC. No longer will a spot in the starting XI be considered guaranteed. This added depth gives Sporting Director/Head Coach Gregg Berhalter more options moving into the waning matches of the season, with the hope that it will lead to a better showing than last season’s brief playoff appearance. Accountability is becoming more than a catchphrase within the ranks of Crew SC.
The question remains if the club can turn this new-found internal competition for playing time into consistent results on the field. How the Crew SC fairs in this final stretch of games will go a long way to answering that question.