Columbus Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter has preached patience with his team since March. Despite a 3-0 start, Berhalter knew building a team in his image would be difficult; it would take time.
After more struggles than successes, Berhalter must have felt justified while watching his side dismantle the LA Galaxy on Saturday to the tune of 4-1. It took until mid August, but everything came together on one night in front of a capacity crowd at Columbus Crew Stadium.
"I think guys realize that it's time to perform," the head coach said after the match.
"Obviously the Galaxy is a team that it's easy to get up for because of the quality they have, but the guys were hungry today."
Whatever the reason, Crew fans saw what their team is capable of for the first time in over four months. Columbus moved the ball quickly and attacked an LA defense that appeared shocked an opponent would dare to do so.
"When you look at the first half, our ball movement and we weren't scared to play," Berhalter said.
"We were daring to play against a team like the Galaxy, it shows a lot about what we've been working on and that the guys believe in it and they want to go out there and execute it. I was really proud of that."
Throughout the year, Berhalter has suggested he needs his wingers to produce in the attack. The wide players have do so at times, but the consistency from either side has been an issue.
Saturday night, this was not the case. Ethan Finlay and Justin Meram each registered a goal and an assist and caused issues for the Galaxy as they worked inside. Because of their play, the field opened up for central players Federico Higuain, Tony Tchani, and Wil Trapp.
Berhalter was certainly pleased to finally see his plans come together.
"I think it's patience." Berhalter sad of his players.
"If you look at our roster, we're the youngest roster in the league. The guys are getting used to it. They're finding their way and they're learning how to get consistency and that's the hardest thing in professional sports is to be consistently good. We're working on that and I think part of it is to get the guys to believe in themselves, believe that they can do it week in and week out."
The success forced LA to abandon their game plan and play out of sorts.
"They couldn't pass the ball," Berhalter said with a smile.
"They couldn't find openings. They resorted to playing direct. They have the best players in the league and they're kicking long balls."
Although the Galaxy out possessed the Black and Gold, they could find no response. Columbus consistently won balls in the midfield and took them the other way, beating LA at their own game.
It is just one win, but the momentum from it could carry the Crew a long way.
"We have 10 games left and it's almost like every game is a playoff game because it's a lot of Eastern Conference teams and the table is tight.," Berhalter said.
"It is going to be interesting. I think this is a great opening game for the next 10 games."