Don’t look now, but the Crew appears to be rounding into form on the road at just the right time. At first glance, the results may not reflect this, because they’re still just 3-8-4 away from Lower.com Field. Since returning from the Leagues Cup break, the Crew has two losses to go with a win and a draw. A bit of a deeper dive is needed to see why I feel this team’s road fortunes are trending upward.
The first of the two road losses came against Houston. Let’s throw that one out right away. Why? Because head coach Wilfried Nancy went with, let’s just call it, an alternative lineup that was largely ineffective. Also, this game was played before newly acquired Diego Rossi and Rudy Camacho were inserted into the lineup as regular starters. The team that lost that night bears only a slight resemblance to the one we’re now seeing. As I said, toss this one aside and don’t give it another look.
A few days after the Houston loss, a Cucho hat trick helped them cruise past surging Montreal. This game should have served as an indicator, because it was probably the Crew’s best road performance since early June.
In the 70th minute against Orlando, all was going well. The Crew’s starting eleven had built a 3-1 lead over the team directly in front of them in the Eastern Conference standings and seemed to have the game under control. Then Nancy began to substitute…and that’s when things came apart. Confusion among the Crew’s backline and poor decision-making allowed Orlando to escape with a 4-3 win. But that result doesn’t change the fact that the Crew’s starting eleven played very well and controlled the game until many headed for the bench.
The 1-1 draw with Dallas this past Saturday night is a bit misleading. The Crew had more shots, more shots on goal, more corners, and missed on two prime scoring chances when a Diego Rossi chip over the goalkeeper was cleared off the line at the last second and, later on, when Cucho hit the post. Earlier in the season, the Crew always seemed to be hanging on for dear life in road games. This was not the case against Dallas.
This has turned into a different team than what we saw on the road for most of the season and it is coming at just the right time. Next week, the Crew visits two teams who are locked in a battle for playoff seeding with them (New England and Atlanta). Most importantly, if they are going to make a run to the MLS Cup final, they’re going to need to win at least once on the road in the playoffs and, most likely, multiple times.