The Union will be hungry for redemption on Wednesday night in a rematch against Columbus, which handed the Union a 1-0 road loss on Saturday.
For a team in a scoring slump, a home victory would offer the Union an opportunity to regroup after going four games without a win. In those four games, the team has scored four goals.
To break out of the losing streak, the Union must find a new approach to Columbus. The offense was absolutely smothered in Saturday's loss. It was a slow-paced grind of a game, with the sole goal coming from Columbus forward Justin Meram, whose shot ricocheted off the heel of the Union's Joshua Yaro and into the net for an own goal.
"We weren't really together, and we didn't pass the test on the road," Union coach Jim Curtin said. "It's a very difficult way to lose. The good news is we get to regroup quickly. I'm very confident in our group."
One challenge the team met on the road was a new lineup from Columbus, which fielded a 3-4-3 formation. With three center backs, Curtin said, the Union should have been able to spread the Columbus defense wide, creating passing lanes and opportunities in front of the goal.
Instead, the team played tight, allowing Columbus to make the field feel small and constrict play to the middle of the field. The Union took only three shots against Columbus: two off-target and one that was blocked. The team did not place a single shot on frame throughout the night.
Some of the team's offensive struggles came from the lack of star players — C.J. Sapong, Fafa Picault, and Roland Alberg watched the game from the team suite because of injuries and suspensions. Chris Pontius and Andre Blake remained with their national teams. But Curtin said the lack of personnel doesn't explain the lack of offense.
"To not have a shot on goal is inexcusable," Curtin said. "It's not a good indication of us. We need to step up as a group."
The consistent bright spot during the team's slump has been goalkeeper John McCarthy, who stepped up to replace Blake during the starting keeper's tenure as captain of the Jamaican national team. McCarthy notched five saves against Columbus, and the own goal was an impossible deflection.
"As disappointed as we are [in] the last two games, the one thing we really learned is John McCarthy across the board has raised the bar as far as where we view him," Curtin said. "He's been excellent. He's shown now that he can start in this league."
With McCarthy in goal, the team's defense has remained stalwart, allowing only four goals in two losses and a draw. The defense is ranked third in MLS, and the team is still positive in its ratio of goals allowed and goals scored.
But with only 14 games remaining in the regular season, the Union must find an offensive rhythm.
Columbus Crew vs. Union
Where: Talen Energy Stadium
When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.
MLS records: Union, 6-9-5; Columbus, 10-10-1
Union on the road: 5-3-2
Columbus at home: 3-7-0
Goals: Union, 26; Columbus, 31.
Goals against: Union, 24; Columbus, 32.
Last game: The Union fell on the road to Columbus, 1-0, on Saturday. The goal of the match came from Justin Meram, whose shot ricocheted off the heel of the Union's Joshua Yaro and into the net.