Preview: Black & Gold confident ahead of clash with Sporting
It can't be overstated: just as the past three wins have been, every match remaining is a playoff match for the Columbus Crew. Just one point out of a playoff spot with three matches left to play, the Black & Gold can not afford to drop points in October, starting with Saturday's match against Sporting Kansas City (7:30 p.m. ET / FOX Sports Ohio).
Though every match in his tenure has been a "must-win," Interim Head Coach Brian Bliss' message hasn't become stale to his players as he drives home the importance of each remaining fixture.
"I've worn out the Internet looking for phrases and quotes to help the guys forward," Bliss joked. "But look, I've got my own way about it. I think the guys are responding. It's a sprint rather than a marathon in what we've got here, but I don't think that will change too much in the way we motivate the guys and get them going.
"It's not easy, but the guys are responding well."
Since taking over managerial duties on September 2, the Crew has rolled off four wins in five matches as Bliss has revitalized the spirit in the locker room.
"The mindset of every player -- the attitude, the motivation, the way we come to practice -- you can see a difference," midfielder Bernardo Anor admitted. "What we do in practice, we translate to the games. The energy has been there; the attitude has been there. All of that together makes the team what has been the past couple of weeks."
It was before the Crew's win against the Chicago Fire on September 21 that things began to truly click in the locker room.
"Blissy made a great point before the Chicago game," midfielder Wil Trapp explained. "He wrote up on the board, 'Want versus need.' Sure, every game you want to win. But for us, we need to win every game. That's how we have to approach everything: the whole week of training and when we step on the field for the game.
"It's back against the wall, we have no other option but three points."
Bliss' positive approach has restored his players' confidence, something that the Crew may have lacked in the summer months. That confidence will be key in Saturday's match against Sporting.
"The mentality has been kind of our strong point and I think that's why we've been winning games," Trapp said. "We've had the talent all year, it's just getting that mindset right. We've found a good combination as of late. I think after these few wins, we're just trying to stay humble. You can't get too caught up in the hype of what's coming on and saying 'We have to win this number of games.'
"Every game, you have to live in the moment and that's the most important game."