Is this what championship soccer looks like?

Is this what championship soccer looks like?

The Crew's 3-1 loss at Los Angeles on Sept. 11 was miserable, but it was also on the road against a top-flight opponent. Even the best take a battering from time to time.

But how can Columbus explain the complete meltdown that resulted in a 4-0 loss to the middling Seattle Sounders in the friendly confines of Crew Stadium?

If you're coach Robert Warzycha, apparently you close your eyes, plug both ears and repeat, "La la la la la la la! I can't hear you!" - an upbeat spin on Radiohead's childlike "I'm not here; this isn't happening" strategy.

After the match, Warzycha told reporters the Crew played some of its best soccer of the year, particularly in the first half. They were just unlucky to be down 3-0 after 42 minutes.

As Dispatch reporter Shawn Mitchell alluded in his match recap, more than luck is at play when you suffer your worst home loss in five years and match your all-time largest margin of defeat.

Former Crew coach Sigi Schmid, who now helms the Sounders, lent some legitimacy to Warzycha's argument by agreeing that the Crew dominated stretches of the match. But no matter how pretty the Crew played at times Saturday, they didn't get the job done.

Conventional wisdom says champions win even when they play poorly, while losers lose even in their finest moments. Viewed in that light, Saturday's slaughter by the Sounders was Chernobyl for Columbus.

All hope is not lost, though. Winning the Supporters Shield for the league's best record seems all but impossible now, but the Crew remains three points ahead of New York in the Eastern Conference standings and thus still has a realistic chance to secure home-field advantage for the playoffs. A win Saturday at New England punches a ticket to the postseason.

Meanwhile, after a bounce-back win over Mexico's Santos Laguna Tuesday, Columbus is poised to advance in the CONCACAF Champions League. Then there's the Oct. 5 U.S. Open Cup final at Seattle, where the Crew could exact revenge on the only MLS club they've never beaten.

With such a demanding schedule, the Crew is likely exhausted. But they'll need physical endurance and mental toughness if they want to stop this violent tumble before it spins out of control.