Crew follows up LA victory with Houston masterpiece
Last weekend's performance against the LA Galaxy was seemingly the Crew at its finest: a perfect display of attacking precision, defensive ability (even despite Gyasi Zardes' great finish) and late-game mettle to close it out. In the face of a sold-out crowd, a spotlight opponent and needing a result after losing to Toronto FC in the prior match, the 4-1 victory over LA was – in this writer's estimation – the perfect result.
Tonight took the Black & Gold's theoretical best to a whole new level. Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter agrees.
"I thought today was better, actually. It thought it was a very, very solid performance," said the Crew boss. "It's easy to get up to play the Galaxy, with the names and the quality, the crowd and everything. Today, against Houston, an Eastern Conference opponent who's on our heels in the table; I thought this was a very strong performance both defensively and offensively."
The points Berhalter makes are accurate, especially in the sense that the Crew took three points away from a Conference rival and continued to bolster its MLS Cup Playoff chances. Most importantly, however, was the consistency. It's impossible to win every match by three, or even win every match period, but it is possible to give a consistent positive effort with each time out and let the chips fall where they may. The Crew was able to do that again on Saturday night and it was rewarded with a resounding victory.
"I think we came into today with a lot of confidence from the LA game," said Adam Bedell. "It's always good coming off a win, and it's good to be at home again. Good team performance; we're very, very happy."
Speaking of Bedell, he scored the Crew's second goal tonight, and in doing so was rewarded for the first time since July 12, when he scored his first career MLS tally against New York. In an odd twist, after scoring, he was immediately subbed off for Aaron Schoenfeld, who was ready at the fourth official's station. The Big Celery notched a goal of his own with a powerful header just four minutes after that.
"I was telling some of the guys, it wasn't the flashiest goal that I've ever scored, but it felt the greatest," said Bedell. "That goal was a weight off my shoulders. It felt great. Good to get off the mark again. It was a good team effort."
"[Both strikers are] physical. They're both good in the air," added Berhalter. "It makes sense that they'd score with their head. We have to keep finding them. The opportunity that Pipa had in the first half was a result of finding [Bedell] in the box. They're tough to defend, especially if he's in the weak side of the defender and he's drifting away. He's impossible to defend."
Further adding to the superlatives was that the Crew won the possession battle tonight, which is commonplace, but not in large victories. Often in blowouts, the trailing team will recapture possession as the leading team takes fewer chances in attack. That wasn't the case tonight: the Crew was on the gas pedal for the entire 90 minutes, finishing with 54.9% possession compared to 44.5% last weekend against LA. A small indicator, to be sure, but just another way that the Black & Gold found a way to take their game to another level on Saturday.
"I think the main thing is that everyone knows their role on the field," said Schoenfeld. "The starters, the subs coming in – I feel like this last few games, especially, everyone on the field has made a difference and won their individual battle on the field."
Now the challenge is to keep going in Montreal next weekend.