Eight months ago, the Columbus Crew hoisted the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy over their heads inside Historic Crew Stadium and celebrated their second MLS Cup. Now, they enter Friday night’s Hell is Real rivalry matchup on a six-match losing skid.

Things can quickly change in soccer, as we all know. However, that’s also why Crew President and General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko isn’t making snap reactions to the club’s current run of form.

In a “state of the club” interview with The Columbus Dispatch reporter Jacob Myers, Bezbatchenko said he has complete faith in head coach Caleb Porter and his players to return to their winning ways and ahead of the looming MLS Cup Playoffs in three months.

“We’re obviously going through a rough patch right now where the results haven’t gone our way,” the GM said. “But I don’t think we’ve just become a bad team over the last stretch of games.

“We are a team that has had some bad results, we’ve had some bad games, but I believe in this team, in this locker room … We can’t allow this period to define our season.”

It’s worth noting that when things were going well, Porter referred to Eloy Room as the league’s best goalkeeper, Jonathan Mensah the top defender and Lucas Zelarayán arguably the best attacking player in MLS. Those players haven’t changed their qualities.

What’s changed, though, is a club that routinely converted its chances has failed to do so, while uncharacteristic mistakes have compounded the issue.

In 2020, the Crew averaged 1.4 goals per game, while allowing 1.1 goals. This season, those numbers rest at 1.04 and 1.3, respectively.

While some of the challenges have stemmed from injuries – Gyasi Zardes is out with a hamstring injury and Kevin Molino tore his ACL – Columbus did a nice job of turning losses into draws and draws into wins before this sudden skid.

The Crew nearly did as much this past Saturday against Seattle Sounders FC before the heartbreaking final moments of the game. If the Crew can score a goal and keep the lead – as they could earlier this season – the Black & Gold will climb back into a playoff spot.

With this in mind, queue a sold-out Hell is Real derby…

Ignoring a 2-1 loss last season – in the fourth meeting between the clubs in 2020 – the Crew is unbeaten in the other six meetings with FC Cincinnati since 2019, including the 2-2 draw this past July when the Black & Gold trailed by two, went down a man and still rallied to earn a draw.

FCC’s 19 goals scored this season is the lowest total in the Eastern Conference, and it allows 1.8 goals per game. 

Following Friday night’s derby, the Crew play at second-place Orlando City SC, but then face Inter Miami CF and the New York Red Bulls – clubs that sit 11th and 10th in the conference, respectively.

If you’re using the previous six matches as a buoy, yes, the Black & Gold are treading uncharted waters by club standards. But zoom out and see the bigger picture, and the current run is in a correction period before the most important part of the season.

The organization doesn’t need a reminder of how important Friday’s match is. A result at home against a rival is essential, especially for a club trying to build momentum. The Crew is a playoff team. Here’s to hoping they remind everyone – and FC Cincinnati – on Friday night.

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