If Columbus Crew SC didn't know before that they are in the MLS Cup Final on Sunday, they certainly do now.
The media came out in force to talk about the Black & Gold's chances for a championship on Wednesday. This featured multiple reporters, local and national, and three separate television stations. Needless to say, it was a bit of a madhouse,
Before the interviews began, it was tournament day for Columbus.
As the media entered the EAS Training Center, Crew SC were playing the usual five vs. five quick games to end the day. The teams were broken up as follows.
Blue: Gaston Sauro, Tony Tchani, Kei Kamara, Mohammed Saeid, Michael Parkhurst
Green: Kevan George, Emanuel Pogatetz, Cedrick Mabwati, Jack McInerney, Harrison Afful
Orange: Aaron Schoenfeld, Sergio Campbell, Chris Klute, Ben Speas, Chad Barson
Gray: Ben Swanson, Kristinn Steindorsson, Tyson Wahl, Hector Jimenez, Waylon Francis
After multiple rounds, the green team won and training concluded. On a cold day, players were eager to take shelter inside the warm locker room, but head coach Gregg Berhalter spoke with all the media members in attendance.
Conversation with Berhalter
- The head coach said again that the team is approaching this week the same way they have all season. They will stick with the usual rhythm of a game week that has worked all year.
- Berhalter called the last meeting with the Portland Timbers, a 2-1 loss for Crew SC, a good game. He said the Black & Gold have to be careful because the Timbers are good in transition and that requires organization and positioning. Called them "fun to watch,"
- Berhalter was asked about how quick reaching an MLS Cup Final has come under his time with the club, just two years. He said any time you're in the playoffs, there's a chance to get to the championship game. The focus last year was to get to the playoffs and it was similar this year. He said the team gained confidence as they developed.
- Berhalter said he feels the momentum of the fans. Said it started with the final regular season game against D.C. United where the support was outstanding. That carried through the playoffs and is now at an all-time high.
- The head coach likes the format where the higher seed hosts the championship game. "It gives importance to the regular season and the goal difference and the wins and all that stuff." He said the city of Columbus will enjoy this Final and it will be a good display of soccer.
- Asked about the improvement of the defense, Berhalter said defending is a team game and they have become a difficult team to break down.
- Berhalter said the contributions to the team of forward Kei Kamara have been tremendous. He said he's worthy of the MVP award despite not winning. He said Kamara goes the extra mile to give back and pointed to his Humanitarian of the Year award and the work he does in the United State and in Sierra Leone.
- Goalkeeper Steve Clark put a good season together said Berhalter, specifically at the end of the year. The head coach wouldn't say he gets overlooked in MLS, but said he's been one of the top keepers in the league.
- Berhalter said Federico Higuain is extremely important to the team and ties everything together on both sides of the ball. He said he believes the attacker's contributions have been underrated this season.