Reigning MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew sank to 10th place on the Eastern Conference table after a disappointing 3-0 loss against Philadelphia Union on Sunday, a performance head coach Caleb Porter deemed 'unacceptable'.
The setback comes as their third game of the week after defeating CF Montreal and Liga MX side Cruz Azul days prior, but Porter avoided using that as an excuse.
“It’s disappointing and unacceptable at this point,” Porter said. “We need guys to be sharper, more focused and have more intensity to start the game. It's very easy to let a long week overcome you.
"But if you're going to be a top performer game in and game out, you have to be stronger mentally and you have to find a way to perform under the circumstances. We got that at Montréal, we got that at Cruz Azul. We didn't get that today.”
The Crew is now six points behind seventh place CF Montreal, a difficult situation to be in with only six regular-season matches remaining before the 2021 MLS playoffs.
“Margins are tight, pressure is there, fatigue maybe could be there,” Porter added. “That's why mentality in the top guys is so important. We've got six games now, probably going to need to win four or five. We do have four home games, but we dropped this result and every result we drop from here on out we start to take it out of our hands a little bit and that's what's, again, frustrating.”
As the club is inches away from missing out on another championship run, players are not taking the situation lightly. After the game, Columbus center back Josh Williams let his frustration known without blaming those around him.
“That's just not a championship performance," he said. "Plain and simple, man. We have aspirations of competing with the best teams in this league and you just can't play like that. We have everything on the line. We still have a chance to keep the rest of the season in our hands and we come out and we do that. That blows my mind.
“And I'm involved in that as well, I'd place myself in that as well. It's a team, I'm not putting the blame on any individual, a couple guys. It's everybody. But I'd tell you who it's not, it's not the staff. It's not staff, it's not Caleb, it's not anybody else but the guys that were on the pitch, the guys that were in the locker room. It's embarrassing, it's shocking. I can't, I don't understand it.”
The Crew faces 11th place Inter Miami next on October 16.