It was a bit of a surprise when the Columbus Crew SC lineup on was announced Saturday night and Hernan Grana's name was not listed. The right back has started seven of Crew SC's nine games and had played 598 of 720 possible minutes heading into the match.
"It was a choice by me," head coach Gregg Berhalter said after the match. "It was a coach's decisions and I think different guys get chances at different times and it was time for Hector to perform and I think he did a good job."
Hector Jimenez, who demonstrated an ability to play all over the field last year, slotted in at right back and performed admirably against a difficult opponent to defend. He also added a bit more control in the possession game, but he was not perfect.
"I'm pleased with the way he performed," Berhalter reiterated. "I think that his final ball could have been better at times but he never quit. He just kept sticking with it and he delivered some decent crosses."
Grana was in attendance Saturday night and in the locker room after the match. While he missed out on this contest, it's unlikely he has lost his place permanently. Berhalter wanted a deep team and specifically mentioned rotating the outside backs in preseason. It was Jimenez's turn, but that does not mean you've seen the last of Grana.
Another Strange Change
If you were confused when Mohammed Saeid's number went up in the 63rd minute, indicating he was coming out of the game, you weren't the only one. The central midfielder had only been substituted once this season in six starts and was playing well against the Seattle Sounders.
"Mohammad had a little groin strain, he picked it up so we had to make a choice and it was a tough decision," Berhatler explained after the match.
That makes sense, but the choice of substitution may still have some scratching their heads, as it was not midfielder Kevan George, the natural fit, but central defender Tyson Wahl who replaced the Swede. Wahl moved to his usual position on the back line and starting central defender Michael Parkhurst played Saeid's role.
"We were debating between Kevan and Michael, but we felt that putting Michael there, he would be comfortable and build up like we normally do and he would understand what's happening because he's been in the game," Berhalter said.
With a 3-1 lead and Seattle's attacking talent, Berhalter felt the experienced of Parkhurst, despite the unfamiliarity in the position, would be the best option, giving Crew SC a strong defender to close down either Clint Dempsey or Obafemi Martins when they dropped into the space between the lines.
Pipa Being Pipa
Federico Higuain doesn't have the statistics of some of the best in the league, but he showed again Saturday night that his name should be mentioned with those players.
"Well, I know you guys are going to be happy because he scored and that's how you judge his performance," Berhalter said when asked about No. 10's performance. "That's not how I judge it."
Higuain did get on the score sheet, his second of the year, but his performance was great regardless. The Sounders tried to slow him down with Gonzalo Pineda and Osvaldo Alonso, but his movements around the field made that nearly impossible.
"He was great tonight and he's been strong this year and his movement, the way he can control a game is excellent and it was like that tonight again," Berhalter said. "He also got a goal, so we're happy for that."
Beating Seattle at Home for the First Time
The Black and Gold have had success against the Sounders since they joined MLS in 2009, but none of that has occurred at home. Crew SC were winless against the Rave Green heading into the match, but Saturday's 3-2 victory changed that, something that was lost on even Berhalter.
"I didn't even know that to be honest," he said when asked about the first home win. "It's nice to have a first time."
After 20 years of existence, there aren't many firsts left for Columbus, but getting a home win over Seattle did count as one. Despite the feat, the head coach was just happy to beat one of the league's top teams.
"I don't want to pretend that we're not happy with the win, that it's not a big win, that it wasn't against a great team," Berhalter explained. It was, but we just keep working and keep plugging away and we have a tough game next week."