It was rainy and cold on the first day of December, but Columbus Crew SC are just happy to still be playing soccer. After winning the Eastern Conference Championship Sunday at the New York Red Bulls, the Black & Gold now prepare for the Portland Timbers in a chance to win the club's second MLS Cup.
That preparation began on Tuesday, the first day of practice this week for Columbus.
The starters from Sunday's game in New York took it easy on Tuesday, as they typically do the first day of training each week. The rest of the team worked in a small-sided game near the end of training when the media members were allowed into the EAS Training Center.
Once the game finished, the players practiced penalty kicks, just in case Sunday's game reaches that point.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter spoke with those on hand after the completion of practice.
Conversation with Berhalter
- Berhalter said it's business as usual this week. He said the focus, as it has been all year, is on the next game and being prepared for Sunday.
- The Final will be "a challenge" for Crew SC with all the attacking options Portland has according to Berhalter.
- "They got the better of us," Berhalter said of the only meeting this year with the Timbers, a 2-1 loss for the Black & Gold. He said the team remembers that game and they will look at how they can improve from that match.
- Berhalter said Crew SC will use the same process they've had the last 12 weeks and they can't vary from that. He said they want to prepare the same way for what, in the end, is just another soccer game.
- Columbus hosting MLS Cup is great said Berhalter. He said it's fortunate the way it worked out and that's why you play the regular season. He said they are excited that fans get to see a final at MAPFRE Stadium.
- In terms of those fans, Berhalter said he expects more of the same. He said each home game in the playoffs, the volume has increased and he thinks it will be a great atmosphere on Sunday.
- Berhalter said the staff will prepare the players in the best possible way so they can take comfort in the fact that they're as prepared as possible. Won't do anything different with it being the Final.
- The head coach said going back to a one-game final instead of a two-leg series makes it easier. "There's no second leg. There's no tomorrow." Said the players can go all out.
- "We want to just continue to play our type of soccer." Berhalter said the way Crew SC plays can stand up to pressure or excitement.