Before the Columbus Crew began its two-game road trip this week, head coach Wilfried Nancy said he was expecting two matches with difficult circumstances that his players would have to overcome.
On Wednesday night, that meant playing against a strong Houston side in stifling heat. And after a slow start, the Crew was able to claw back in the game, but the attacked lacked the sizzle seen in previous matches, as Columbus ultimately lost, 2-0, to Dynamo FC.
“They have to push themselves more,” Nancy said about his squad after the match. “We could have been better in terms of the way when we had the ball and when we wanted to take care of ball but also when we have to win the ball and the energy – more energy. In this kind of game, we need more energy from everyone. Tonight, it was not the case.
“This is not about the game. This is about the attitude. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that all my players were like that or that they had a bad attitude; no, I'm saying that we have to do more with this kind of game to be able to get the result.”
The visitors found themselves trailing 14 minutes in, when Houston was able to play through the lines and Corey Baird slotted a shot past Patrick Schulte. Columbus created opportunities to equalize, but nothing challenged the Dynamo defense in the first half.
The Crew produced more attacking chances in the second half and looked primed to equalize, but the visitors weren’t able to find the net. Instead, it was Ibrahim Aliyu who doubled the deficit in the 90th minute on a counter.
“We faced a good team with the ball, and they were able to combine by short passes,” Nancy said of Houston. “We had difficulties in the beginning at certain moments to be able to block a bit the relationship between their midfielders and their forward. After that, it was a little bit better, but we were not clean with the ball. We were able to come out from the back, we were able to get the speed and when we had the speed, we missed the touch, we missed the pass or we didn't connect. We were not fluid to attack the box the way we wanted to do so that's why we didn't have many chances.”
“We didn’t quit, but usually, we are able to go and to go and to go. Yes, it was hot. Yes, there are a lot of things, but we have to be better with that. We have to push ourselves a little bit more. Usually, when we start or when you come in… I was not happy with that so this is something that we will work on.”
This was a result where Nancy always saw the bigger picture. Ahead of kickoff, the starting XI included a number of changes from Saturday’s 2-0 win against Toronto FC. This was by design, as it offered minutes to players, but also rest for typical starters ahead of Saturday night at CF Montréal.
“Listen, this is only one game,” the coach said. “We had good games away. We didn't win, but we had good games away. This trip is not easy. As you know, it was really hot. Again, this is for both teams, but this is the reality and the struggle. When we play this kind of game, we have to be good in terms of mentality. We have to push a little bit more ourselves.
“I believe in my players. I know that they’re going to be able to do it. Tonight, we didn't do it the way we wanted to do it, but I know that we're going to be able to do it. For me, this is not an issue. This is more about take this opportunity to show them that, guys, if we want to achieve what we want to achieve, we have to be better in these kind of situations. It's been the message.”
Secure your seat to cheer on the reigning MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew at Lower.com Field this season!