Crew look to break road hex in Colorado

Columbus haven't won series opener away from home since 2002

OBETZ, Ohio – The Columbus Crew will try to break a trend when they open the Eastern Conference semifinals on Thursday at Colorado.

Since a first-round, two-game sweep of the San Jose Earthquakes in 2002, the Crew have not won another series opener in four tries, with all four results coming on the road.

Even when they won the MLS Cup in 2008 the Crew had to rally for a tie at Kansas City in the opener, thanks to a stoppage-time goal by then-rookie reserve forward Steven Lenhart.

Columbus returned to the friendly confines of Crew Stadium and beat the Wizards 2-0 before dismissing Chicago 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Final. A 3-1 win over New York in the MLS Cup capped the season.

“It’s obviously tough when you have to go on the road the first game, but a result on the road is good,” said midfielder Duncan Oughton, the only Crew player still remaining from the 2002 San Jose series. “Get a win or a tie, and you come home happy, where we’re tough to beat.”

In 2002, the Crew got by the defending champion Earthquakes and were one series win away from their first-ever MLS Cup appearance when they faced the New England Revolution. The playoff format at the time meant the first team to five points advanced, which the Revs eventually did with a win and two draws in the series.

There was more disappointment two years later, when the Crew entered the postseason off their first Supporters’ Shield and with an 18-game unbeaten streak. They lost the opening leg in Foxborough and went on to lose the series with a 1-1 draw at home.

Columbus, of course, lost the series opener against Real Salt Lake last year before they dropped the series with a 2-2 draw back at Crew Stadium.

“When you lose you think about that all week,” Crew defender Gino Padula said. “You think you have to win, you have to score a goal. It’s very important not to lose Thursday, and then see if we can change the luck a little bit.”

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