It's been a while since Columbus Crew SC fans have been able to walk away from a game just feeling good — not having to weigh positives against negatives. That's not to say Wednesday's 2-1 victory over the visiting New England Revolution at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus was perfect, but there was a sigh of relief for the club's supporters.
Here are a few of my thoughts after the mid-week result.
A 30-second wakeup call
That's how long it took Crew SC to get in trouble. It all came from careless play in the midfield. With the way Columbus plays — and the danger NE provides in attack — you can't be careless. But there was a terrible pass for a turnover, a sloppy interception and touch from Mohammed Saeid and a too-aggressive attempt by Emanuel Pogatetz. It made things way too easy for the Revolution and it was clear that nobody in a black uniform was coming out of the gate sharp.
But it also served as a wakeup call. At a lot of times this season the Black & Gold have struggled to find a response, but giving up a goal that early really seemed to snap the hosts into gear and that was a great thing to see for a side that has drawn a little criticism for its toughness.
Finally, the streak ends
Actually, many streaks, and none of them good news for Columbus. The most obvious is that the team FINALLY found a way to pick up three points despite conceding the first goal. Obviously you are not going to always find the net first, but, hopefully, this is a sign that Crew SC can find a way to not let that become an automatic dagger every time. If it was mental, it shouldn't be anymore. Facing a team that has become adept at losing leads turned out to be a boon for Columbus.
It was also the end of a 321-minute stretch since the Black & Gold had last led a game. I know that weighed on fans, but it had to weigh on the players as well. It's difficult to always be chasing games. With the way Gregg Berhalter wants to play, being on top can make all the difference in the world.
Most importantly, it ended a winless streak. MLS is a fickle, unpredictable beast, and all teams seem to go through lulls and swells. The key to success is not allowing those lulls to last too long. It's been two months since Columbus' last victory. The club can survive one of those dips; I'm not sure it can survive any more.
The most important moment in the game came when Kei Kamara headed a rebound into the back of the net in the fourth minute to tie things at 1. It took only three minutes for Crew SC to respond to going down, and I don't think it's possible to overstate how critical a swift answer was. For a team with an abysmal record when conceding first, suddenly it was like it hadn't conceded at all, and things were back on level terms. There was no time to dwell on things or let New England settle in.
And then, for once, it wasn't the Black & Gold defense that was caught off its game. When Kamara finished his second of the night to put Columbus up 2-1 it was, in part, because the Revolution decided they were more concerned with begging for a hand ball than defending the play. It has been lapses like that which have killed Crew SC at times, and for once it was nice to see the team be on the right end of one of those moments.
Contributions all around
Any woes this season have been independent of Kamara, but it's worth noting that he had another excellent game, drawing a ton of attention and getting into the right places. He was tremendous — again — and has already set a career high for goals in a season with three months still to go. If Columbus can make the playoffs and make a run, you might be looking at your 2015 MLS MVP.
Federico Higuain, who has at time seemed a little disconnected, also put in a strong game. He was getting into dangerous spots in the attack, set up the first goal and nearly set up another in the 14th-minute. It's so important for defenses to have to worry about him in that third of the field, and the Revs did.
And while the defense has taken some hits, it played pretty well against a very good attack. Michael Parkhurst looked energized, and it was a much-needed effort from the Crew SC captain. He helped create space for Hector Jimenez to get a great cross in on the first goal, and late in the game he was tracking back at full speed to beat Diego Fagundez to a dangerous opportunity.
This victory came on the back of a team effort with two very Berhalter-esque goals. Just look at the first goal for Columbus. It couldn't have happened without the combined movement of five different players in black, which forced the New England back line to make decisions and not ball watch, of which they did neither well.
I still have to double-check the spelling every time I write his name (two Ns, two Ss), but Kristinn Steindorsson provided an intriguing appearance last night. I think the general consensus is that the Icelandic newcomer has not been bad, but has not contributed as much as most hoped for. He's mostly been "meh."
That may be because of the way he plays, which isn't suited to being opposite Columbus' main buildup on the right. He seems more like a guy you want involved in that buildup, and the left flank has left him isolated and less involved.
He didn't light the world on fire against New England, but he did catch some people's attention after coming off the bench to replace Pipa. The move slotted Steindorsson more centrally than he has played thus far, and therefore closer to the action; there seemed to be a slightly higher level of comfort. It was enough, I think, that many fans would like to see him in that role again to see how he takes to it.
We know Ben Speas can fill in there, and it's possible that the incoming Cedrick could do so as well. But could that be a way to get more out of Steindorsson?
A quick turnaround
Quick turnaround's can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you move on quickly. That means that Columbus may be able to ride a little momentum with little down time before Saturday's match versus Real Salt Lake. But capitalizing on that opportunity is important. A poor performance against RSL and this win will be just a blip on the radar, and we'll all be asking questions again.
Maybe that's all a narrative made up by those of us watching the game — the mantra, after all, is to take things one game at a time, and all points count the same in the standings. But the club could use some positive vibes in mid-summer, and it would be a shame to let this opportunity go to waste.