After the emotional win over the Montreal Impact in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, it was only natural for Columbus Crew SC to want to keep momentum going. The Black & Gold came out of that game amped, but head coach Gregg Berhalter had to keep his team level before the start of the Eastern Conference Final.
"It's controlling that [emotion] and now it's refocusing and getting focused on the Red Bull," Berhalter said last week.
Due to international games and World Cup qualifying, Major League Soccer took a break from the playoffs last weekend, meaning Crew SC had to wait an extra week to get back on the playing field.
After training through Saturday last week, Berhalter gave the players Sunday and Monday off and it's worked pretty well.
"I think last week we were able to work pretty hard with the off weekend," center back Tyson Wahl said on Tuesday. "We could get some extra fitness in and make sure everyone's on the same page, guys that were recovering from the game, guys that haven't played in a while. So I thought that was really productive. We had two days off and everyone came back super fresh today and now it's about preparing for New York."
The Black & Gold returned to training after the two days off recharged and ready to make a final push in what they hope will be three straight weekends.
Before they can worry about an MLS Cup Final though, they have to get ready for the New York Red Bulls, who finished with the best record in MLS this season. There is work to be done this week in order to be prepared for the two-legged series with New York.
"We know that we can expect that they're going to press," Wahl said of the Red Bulls. "In which ways and which part of the field, that remains to be seen and we'll figure that out this week."
Even though New York presents a difficult challenge for Crew SC, the Black & Gold are confident. After the weekend off, the Columbus players are ready to prepare before they look for the win on Sunday evening.
"Positive I'd have to say," forward Kei Kamara said of the attitude of the group. "We had a couple days off, which is always good to recover and spend some time with family. We're back here and we know what the task ahead is and we had a meeting this morning and everybody's just focused. Energy today at training was really good actually."
This week will be big in determining who ultimately advances in the series. If Crew SC can figure out how to get a sizable lead in the first leg at home, it could go a long way to keep the season alive into December.