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Mid-week Friendly With Affiliate Allows for Unique Opportunity

Tuesday night's friendly with the Dayton Dutch Lions provided Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter with a chance to get players minutes and see the depth of his team.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Crew's 2-0 over the Dayton Dutch Lions in Tuesday night's friendly match went fairly unnoticed. This is usually the way minor friendlies, but there were some key things at which to look for in this outing.

First was seeing if the Crew could get a result. It has now been eight games since the Black and Gold last won an MLS game, so how would Columbus do in a game they were expected to win?

The Crew came out with the W, thanks to an own goal in the opening 30 seconds and Ethan Finlay cleaning up a rebound in the fourth minute, but it may not be as nice as they would have liked.

Against a USL-PRO opponent that has just two wins on the season and has conceded 17 goals in eight games, the MLS side would have liked to see the ball hit the back of the net with more frequency.

In the end, it's a friendly and head coach Gregg Berhalter won't be looking at the result as much as individual performances.

One thing he was likely looking for was how the fitness of the less-used players. With the summer stretch on the horizon and players missing games due to World Cup call-ups, Berhalter will be forced to use his bench more than he has all season. Tonight he got to see his players in a 90 minute match compete against an actual opponent - not just their teammates in practice.

The back line is an area where the head coach was certainly paying close attention. Chad Barson and Tyson Wahl both earned their first MLS starts of the season last Saturday and Berhalter wanted to see them improve on game one after conceding three goals to the Portland Timbers.

Eric Gehrig is a player that will likely be called upon as soon as Saturday, as regular central defender Giancarlo Gonzalez departed for Costa Rica on Sunday. Gehrig has 26 appearances and 18 starts in his professional career, so he is not inexperienced, but Berhalter was likely looking for sharpness before he decides whether to start him against the Chicago Fire.

Another player competing for a vacated center back spot is Kevan George. The former central midfielder has spent much of the season with Dayton, getting minutes along the back line to adjust to his new role. Though he didn't start, George played the second 45 minutes, helping to keep the shutout.

Ben Sweat was the final Columbus defender. The left back, who is hopeful to make his professional debut in the absence of starter Waylon Francis, played the full 90 minutes and was consistently involved in the attack. Sweat said in the preseason that he fit perfectly in this system and it was apparent he can play the attacking side of the ball.

Berhalter can only take so much from his defense against Dayton, but he will be pleased to see a doughnut by the opponent's name. It also gave him more real-game situations in order to judge his players.

This game saw a Daniel Paladini with something to prove. After not being selected as a starter in the absence of the suspended Wil Trapp, Paladini looked to use this game to show his coach what he could do in real action.

The self-described box-to-box midfielder was active throughout the match and demonstrated his ability to serve a dangerous set piece.

Rookie Fifi Baiden also saw 45 minutes worth of action. The midfielder, who has also spent time with the Dutch Lions, proved that he might be able to fill in Trapp's role if he is needed.

The advantage of playing this game against the Crew's affiliate was a chance to see the players on loan. Berhalter was able to take a look at forward Aaron Schoenfeld, midfield Matt Walker, and goalkeeper Brad Stuver in person.

All three played well with Schoenfeld and Walker both being active throughout the first half and Stuver making a couple of saves in the second.

After the game, Berhalter called the match a "great exercise" and it may go beyond that. Some players were able to get minutes they normally wouldn't, which may provide better depth down the line.