Remember the ultra-violent fighting game Mortal Kombat? (Of course you do.) When you had your opponent reeling, the ominous voice of Shao Khan charged you with one final task: "Finish him!"

Remember the ultra-violent fighting game Mortal Kombat? (Of course you do.) When you had your opponent reeling, the ominous voice of Shao Khan charged you with one final task: "Finish him!"

Perhaps the Columbus Crew needs to whip out their old-school gaming consoles, because this club has developed serious finishing problems. The result: a 1-2-6 record, good for nine points and last place in the Eastern Conference.

Because 2009 seems to be the year of the draw in Major League Soccer, Columbus is only two wins behind East-leading Chicago. But nearly a third of the way through its season, the Crew can't afford to rely on continued mediocrity from its competition if it wants to have a fighting chance at defending its MLS Cup title.

No matter how many press releases the club dispenses praising the Crew's unbeaten streak - currently five matches strong - not a single living fan is satisfied with the Crew's recent run. Columbus has been leaking points by repeatedly failing to slam the door shut.

On the offensive end, the Crew has created a wealth of scoring opportunities but has been stymied again and again - sometimes by superb goalkeeping, but mostly by their own bad luck and trigger-shy tendencies. The offense is too exciting to describe as anemic, but they've lacked a killer instinct all season.

Consider Columbus' 1-1 draw at Los Angeles last weekend. Although Galaxy goalie Donovan Ricketts put up a fight, Crew attackers squandered numerous gimmes. Most frustratingly, Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Eddie Gaven failed to convert a golden opportunity in the 89th minute that would have sealed the deal.

The one goal Columbus did score wasn't the result of attractive team soccer but a cagey individual effort from Schelotto, who pickpocketed defender Tony Sanneh and slipped the ball past Ricketts for a 1-0 lead in the 70th minute.

It was a moment of karmic bliss for fans who remember Sanneh blowing the Crew's 2004 season, but as usual, the Crew failed to hold on.

Therein lies the Crew's other finishing problem: Columbus can't hold on to a lead. Last year, the Black and Gold was 13-0-0 when scoring first. In the same situation this year they're 1-0-5, usually conceding the tying goal in the match's waning minutes.

These are mental mishaps, and avoiding them is the difference between a contender and an also-ran. Such struggles have perennially plagued the Crew, but last year's title run seemed to herald a new era. The evidence suggests this year's Crew isn't thinking like champions.

That's a big problem. Robert Warzycha and his boys had better steal back whatever mojo Sigi Schmid took with him to Seattle, lest the Crew regress to its old ways like a dog returning to his vomit.