The Crew has been here before.

The Crew has been here before.

Last season they headed to the Rocky Mountains and dug themselves into a 1-0 deficit in the away leg of a two-game, total goals playoff series. They came back home the following week and jumped to a quick 2-0 lead on a pair of Guillermo Barros Schelotto goals, only to surrender three unanswered goals to Real Salt Lake and end up with a deflating 4-2 aggregate loss.

The script played out much the same way last Thursday in Denver, where the Colorado Rapids ran amok over Columbus. Like Salt Lake last year, the Rapids grabbed a 1-0 lead and can now play for a draw in the second leg of the series Saturday afternoon at Crew Stadium.

The Crew, on the other hand, must come out guns blazing if they want to return to the Eastern Conference final.

That's been a tough proposition for Columbus since August, when a glut of outside competitions left the Crew playing nearly twice as often as most MLS squads during the season's stretch run. They spent the last few months of MLS play coasting on fumes, and while wins in meaningless matches against Trinidad and Tobago's Joe Public and the expansion Philadelphia Union had them entering the playoffs on a high note, the Crew looked exhausted and disorganized again in Denver.

To combat the fatigue, Columbus took the weekend off after flying back from the Rockies. As for the disarray, coach Robert Warzycha was pulling out all the stops at training Tuesday, adopting a hands-on approach rarely seen in recent months.

With all the jetting off to far-flung locales, the Crew simply hasn't had time to go in-depth and adjust technical problems. But Warzycha seems to be making the most of what precious practice time remains. He had the team in video sessions for a solid hour before they took to the pitch Tuesday morning; once outside, he frequently interrupted the scrimmage to offer personalized tactical instruction.

Such measures may be too little, too late. But they might be just the tweak this talented team needs to regain its championship form.

Let's hope so because the Crew has been here before, and last time it wasn't pretty.