Columbus Crew looking for more 'hunger' in final 10 games ahead of home match against NY Red Bulls

Jacob Myers
The Columbus Dispatch

There’s no true must-win scenario until a team is on the brink of elimination, but the chances of making the playoffs without a win Tuesday at Lower.com Field against the New York Red Bulls (6-10-5, 23 points) are extremely unlikely for the Crew. 

A loss at Inter Miami on Saturday plunged the Crew (7-11-6, 27 points) to 10th place in the East. It was the final road game this season against a team below the Crew in the league standings. 

They’re four points off the final playoff spot and five points off fifth-place Philadelphia Union with 10 games remaining — six of which are at home. Given the team’s road struggles this season, and even last year with essentially the same group of players, the Crew can’t afford to lose points at home and fall further behind in the playoff race. 

"I don't see a team that's not working hard or fighting at all," coach Caleb Porter said. "I would disagree with that opinion if that's out there. But I don't think we've had all 11 guys for 90-plus minutes 100% giving as much as they can give, in terms of hunger and fight and mentality. But there's nothing dysfunctional happening.” 

Coach Caleb Porter's Crew are four points off the final playoff spot with 10 games remaining — six of which are at home.

The Crew have been shut out 10 times this season. In games with a one-goal margin, the Crew are 4-8 this season compared to an 8-5 record last year including playoffs. 

The Crew were one of the toughest teams to play against last year, and it showed late in games. Rediscovering that next gear to finish off tight games might be the difference between the season continuing or ending after 34 games. 

"I think the difference in the next 10 games is finding that extra 5 to 10% — unity, hunger and a little bit of nastiness to refuse to lose,” Porter said. “We've got to get that refuse-to-lose mentality again." 

Similar to the last time the Crew played the Red Bulls — a 1-0 loss on Aug. 18 — the Crew had a lot of possession and were in better scoring positions than Inter Miami. But turning those moments into actual scoring chances has been a difficult task for the Crew this season. 

Midfielder Marlon Hairston said players need to take more risk. 

“I think in the majority of games we've played we continue to have majority of possession but not much comes from it,” he said. “We;ve just got to do more to try to threaten the opposition's goal more and hopefully we can get some luck to go our way these last 10 games.” 

Porter said the wingers and outside backs need to play higher up the field to get more crosses into the penalty area. At times the Crew also can involve the striker in the buildup to get attacking midfielder Lucas Zelarayan the ball in better attacking positions. 

Striker Gyasi Zardes lamented the Crew’s inability to cross the ball into the box after a 1-0 loss to Chicago Fire in mid-August, but noted it has improved in recent games. 

“The only thing is a couple of us runners in the box just have to get on the end of it,” Zardes said. “I'm satisfied at least we're getting the opportunity to put crosses in because you've got to think about us scoring that way.” 

Predicting what will happen around the league is a fool’s errand. But winning home games is table stakes for the Crew with ground to gain in the standings. 

“Everybody's writing us off. It's fine,” Porter said. “If we win our home games, all six games, and steal a couple results on the road, we're going to be in the playoffs. I believe that.” 

jmyers@dispatch.com

@_jcmyers

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