The Columbus Crew welcomed the Dayton Dutch Lions to town for a midweek scrimmage on Wednesday morning. The scrimmage was closed to the public but members of the media were invited to come watch.
The Crew began the game with a lineup of:
Hector Jimenez - Chad Barson - Matt Wiet - Ben Sweat
Kelechi Iheanacho - Daniel Paladini - Kevan George - Bernardo Anor
It was a bit of a makeshift lineup for the Black and Gold, with a combination of reserves and players working back to fitness from injuries. That didn't stop the Crew from rolling to a 5-1 win. Those who did not participate in the game - the starters and regular members of the 18 - finished their drills as the game began. It appeared they had really been put through their paces today, all looking rather tired.
The first goal came early with Speas firing home a low shot after a layoff from the top of the box. Not long after Dayton was awarded a penalty kick, which was converted. Iheanacho then scored on a left footed rip to take the game to 2-1 Columbus before Speas got his second after intercepting a bad pass from the Lions in their own defensive third and slotting it away. Iheanacho ended the 35 minute half with a nice dribbling display before firing a shot off a defender for the 4-1 lead.
In the second half, the Crew brought on two Academy players who have trained with the team recently on either wing. Before being taken out though, Iheanacho bagged his hat track after he dribbled across the box and took several fakes before putting the ball in the net.
It was unknown until after the game that Iheanacho is a player training with Columbus from English Premier League side Manchester City. More on that from head coach Gregg Berhalter below.
The Black and Gold saw a friendly face on the opposition as Ross Friedman lined up at right back for the majority of the game for Dayton.
- Lampson and the center backs were in constant conversation with George, who was playing the Wil Trapp role, about making sure he didn't get too far forward in certain circumstances. It seemed they always wanted to have a man advantage, so three players (including George) back when the Lions had two forward, but George could push further up into the midfield when Dayton only kept one up top.
- Wiet was very vocal throughout the game, giving instructions about positioning to his teammates and also informing them of the time they had and such. He was one of the more vocal players on the field.
- With this lineup, Speas and Paladini prepared to take the free kicks. Speas took all of the corners.
- Speas played in the Federico Higuain role throughout the game, but roamed much more in the second half. He was often on the left wing as Anor was replaced by an Academy player at halftime.
- The player who replaced Anor took his time getting back on defense a couple of times early in the second half. Berhalter was quick to come out to the near sideline and tell him he needs to work back defensively.
- I ran into Ben Swanson, a Crew Academy and Bradenton product, when I arrived at the facility. He was getting in his car in street clothes and was not around for the game.
- Aaron Schoenfeld did not play in the game against the team he's played most of the season with on loan, but watched the second half from the sideline with Trapp and some of the other regular players.
Conversation with Berhalter Post Game
- Berhalter said it was no secret that there was a player from Manchester City training with the Crew (yet it was a surprise to everyone gathered). He said Iheanacho is training here for a period and will return to City in October, not a candidate to be signed by Columbus. Berhalter said Iheanacho wanted a place to train and stay fit. He said City approached them through Claudio Reyna, who is a friend of his, looking for a place to train with similar philosophies.
- Berhalter said the scrimmage was agreed upon last week. He said it has been unfortunate the Black and Gold haven't had enough reserve games for the players that haven't been playing. He called this an opportunity to get game time. He said overall it was a good exercise
- When asked about the Academy players, Berhalter said they were young kids. He said it's good to get them integrated and see how they perform. Part of the integration of the Academy is to have them in sync with what the first team is doing, which the head coach says takes time.
- Berhatler said the combination of Paladini and George is the middle worked well. He believed they controlled the middle together and worked well defensively.
- On Wiet, Berhalter said he looked good. He said the defender knows what the team is doing and it's good to have him out there.
- Asked about Tyson Wahl, Berhalter said you know what you get with him. Called him a guy who you get strong performances from. He said every team needs a veteran backbone and Wahl is that for this team.
- Berhalter said he was looking to see how the players in the scrimmage apply what the coaches have taught them. He said you use the game as a measuring stick of what they're grasping.