Gregg Berhalter said the strategy heading into the 102nd Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup was to go on to the next round. Survive and advance, if you will, in the one-and-done tournament.
The Columbus Crew SC players did not let their coach down on Wednesday night, defeating the Richmond Kickers 3-1 in the fourth round of the Open Cup.
Against a USL side, the third division in U.S. soccer, Berhalter elected to go with a largely reserve lineup, featuring just three regular starters and a different 3-5-2 formation.
Columbus came out looking to attack early in the match.
Five minutes in, attacking midfielder Ben Speas found forward Ethan Finlay at the top of the Richmond penalty area. Finlay touched the ball across the front of goal before firing a shot that went over Kicker's goalkeeper Ryan Taylor's net.
Six minutes later and Richmond created its first chance of the game with a long-range shot. Brad Stuver didn't have to move as the ball went high over his goal.
After 16 minutes, Hector Jimenez created a good chance for Crew SC. The winger found space on the right side and sent a cross into the 18-yard box, looking for Adam Bedell, but the cross was too high for the 6-foot-7 striker.
Just two minutes later, Bedell got his head on a cross and this time gave the Black & Gold the 1-0 lead. On this occasion, it was Speas serving the ball across and Bedell used his frame to rise up and finish the effort.
In the 24th minute, midfielder Brian Owusu pulled the match level thanks to two mistakes by Columbus. First midfielder Tony Tchani committed an unnecessary foul 30 yards from goal. Crew SC lost focus on the ensuing free kick, allowing Owusu to fire a low shot by Stuver.
Just three minutes before halftime, the Black & Gold literally stole the lead and the momentum back thanks to a Taylor blunder.
After a cross came into his penalty area, the Kickers' keeper came off his line to collect the ball, but bobbled it and Finlay was on the door step to tuck it away to give Columbus the 2-1 lead at the halftime break.
Richmond came out of the locker room looking to get right back in the match. In the first minute of the second half, midfielder Michael Callahan sent a cross into the box that forced Stuver to punch it over the goal and concede the corner.
After the opening five minutes, Crew SC began to settle back in and take control. Both Finlay and Bedell had a chance to double their tally on the night, but both were unable to do so.
Finally in the 63rd minute, Columbus put the game out of reach through Bedell. The big striker showed his ability with the ball on the ground, dribbling to the top of the box and firing a chip that beat Taylor and kissed off the crossbar to increase the lead to two.
Just five minutes from the end of the match, second half substitute Aaron Schoenfeld dribbled at the Richmond defense. The forward cut inside to his left foot and fired a low shot that forced Taylor, who finished the match with nine saves, to push the ball away.
With two minutes remaining, the Kickers' all-time leading scorer, Matthew Delicâte, had a chance to cut the deficit in half. The ball came to him at the penalty spot in front of the Crew SC goal, but the striker swung at the ball and missed.
Berhalter and his men advance to the fifth round of the Open Cup for the second consecutive season. Last year, Columbus fell 4-2 in overtime to the Chicago Fire at that stage.
The Black & Gold will learn its opponent and location on Thursday. Check back to Massive Report for the latest updates as they are announced.
Columbus Crew SC lineup: Brad Stuver; Chad Barson, Emanuel Pogatetz, Tyson Wahl; Hector Jimenez, Tony Tchani, Kevan George, Ben Speas, Kristinn Steindrsson (81' Mohammed Saeid); Ethan Finlay (67' Justin Meram), Adam Bedell (81' Aaron Schoenfeld)
Richmond Kickers lineup: Ryan Taylor; Braeden Troyer, William Yomby, Hugh Roberts, Stephen Basso; Michael Callahan, Samuel Asante, Sekyere Owusu, Sascha Görres, Nate Shiffman; Eli Garner