Ahead of Sunday's Columbus Crew SC clash with the Montreal Impact in the MLS Cup Playoffs' Eastern Conference Semifinal, Black & Gold head coach Gregg Berhalter and team captain Michael Parkhurst spoke with the media.
Here are the highlights of what they had to say.
- The head coach said he still takes a lot from the two losses to the Impact this year even though they were early in the season. He said there were some errors that cost the team and they have to avoid those specific things.
- Berhalter said the only injury Crew SC are dealing with is Mohammed Saeid who picked up an injury in the final regular season game. He said the midfielder will most likely be out for the weekend, called it touch and go.
- Montreal forward Dider Drogba is going to be impossible to completely nullify according to Berhalter because of how good he is. For Crew SC, it is about limiting his opportunities and make the ones he does get poor looks.
- Berhalter said they are preparing for a battle with IMFC. He expects a good game on Sunday.
- The team talked with forward Jack McInerney, who was traded from Montreal earlier in the season, about the Impact, but Berhalter said the team has changed since he left.
- Berhalter called IMFC one of the most consistent teams in MLS over the last part of the season. He pointed that they've come from a long way back to get to the playoffs and Crew SC has to prepare for a tough challenge.
- Asked about last year's playoffs, Berhalter said they weren't happy with how the team let the game get away from them. He said you have to limit damage and remain calm. These series are 180 minutes and potentially overtime and they didn't do a good job with that mentality to begin the series with the New England Revolution last year.
- Berhalter said the team treated this week like a normal week of training and started focusing on the Impact on Friday.
- The Montreal midfield did a great job in the knockout game against Toronto FC Berhalter said. He said that will provide a challenge, but it won't change the way Columbus will play.
- On Drogba, Parkhurst called it a challenge for the whole team defensively and it will take a collective effort to shut down the Impact's attack. He mentioned midfielder Ignacio Piatti as someone who can be dangerous in the IMFC attack as well.
- Parkhurst said the playoff performance last year isn't weighing on the players negatively. He said the players who were a part of it remember the disappointing exit and how the team started the playoffs last year and they have to learn from the mistakes from that series.
- The center back said you can't change your shape or how you're playing if you go down 1-0 because one goal likely won't win the series. Have to keep playing the team's normal game.
- Parkhurst said while Montreal certainly has a strong central midfield, he believes Crew SC has one of the best midfield group in the league. He said the Black & Gold have a good balance of players in the center of the field, but they have to be balanced to avoid the Impact players making their mark in there.
- Parkhurst believes the rest the team got over this week is why they wanted the Knock Round Bye. The captain admitted that the Crew SC players were hoping for an overtime game for the Impact, but that didn't happen. Parkhurst said any team in the league is capable of playing three games in a week and he doesn't see fatigue as too much of a factor.
- McInerney has provided a little bit of insight for Crew SC according to Parkhurst, but he believes they know the Impact's tendencies as a team. He also pointed out that McInerney didn't play with Drogba and that's the player the center backs will be primarily matched up with.
- Crew SC want to put themselves in a position to win the series and the home game on the road. According to Parkhurst, that means a win or a draw would be great but the focus is on having the opportunity to win the game and series at home. He did say he doesn't think the Black & Gold will go into Montreal and sit back. Pointed out that away goals could be important.
- Things are progressing well between Parkhurst and center back Gaston Sauro. Parkhurst credited the bye week that gave them time to work on the chemistry between the two.