During a normal week of training, which Columbus Crew SC did not have last week, head coach Gregg Berhalter puts his players through their most difficult day on Tuesday.
This week, after an 0-2-1 record over the last seven day period where they conceded seven goals and scored just three, was no different.
As the media entered the EAS Training Center in Obetz, the players worked on small fields in situational drills. The idea was to simulate a ball being played into the back by the defender and attacking the goal quickly. The forward had to pressure the defender out of the back initially and it was about limiting the damage on the quick attack by the defensive team.
After the conclusion of that drill, the players remained in their teams and and played series of five v. five games. The teams were as follows:
Blue: Kei Kamara, Ethan Finlay, Federico Higuain, Michael Parkhurst, Hector Jimenez
Gray: Kalen Ryden, Tyson Wahl, Kevan George, Ben Speas, Adam Bedell
Orange: Mohammed Saeid, Chad Barson, Sergio Campbell, Romain Gall, an Academy player
Green: Emanuel Pogatetz, Kristinn Steindorsson, Aaron Schoenfeld, Tony Tchani, Waylon Francis
They played three five minute games, with each team playing the others once before practice concluded. The Gray team won the min-tournament.
As the players walked off the field, it was apparent they had been put through a work load today. Jimenez mentioned that the team began the day with conditioning and they were still required to work hard through the final drills.
After working with Tchani on some long-range passes/shots on mini goals, Berhalter addressed the media.
Conversation with Berhalter
- The head coach called today a good session. He said the players worked hard and the team was out there for a while. He also said a lot of the training was meant to be short times and intense movements.
- Berhalter said this week will be different due the longer training options. He said last week was a lot of regeneration mixed with some light field work due to the match congestion. The team will ramp it up more this week.
- Justin Meram will be back on Friday from his international call-up with Iraq Berhalter confirmed. He expects the winger to be fully available for Saturday's game with the LA Galaxy. He said it's good for Meram to get these call-ups and he's worked hard over the last year and a half to put himself in these positions. Berhalter said he hasn't heard anything official about any other players' call-ups.
- The head coach said he didn't think his team did a good job after halftime. He called the first half okay, but the team got themselves in situations where the Montreal Impact countered well and in the second half they didn't apply pressure where they could hurt the Impact.
- Berhalter said he thinks the Galaxy want to play soccer and Saturday's match will be a good, fun game and great for the spectators.
- The team is excited to play in front of a sold out MAPFRE Stadium, but Berhalter called Saturday's game with LA, "just another game."
- Berhalter was asked about Finlay's statement after the loss on Saturday that the attacking four were a bit off recently. Berhalter said he thought they had some good moves and pointed to Francis' header on goal right before halftime that was three passes from the goalkeeper to a shot on goal. "Not too many teams in the league can do that." He did say overall he agreed with Finlay's assessment, especially when the opposition is packed in tight defensively.
- The head coach said he wants to see Crew SC come to a conclusion with its attacks. That means either having the shot saved, the ball going over the end line, or, ideally, going into the net. When it's sloppy and the ball is lost, the team opens itself up to transition.
- Berhalter called Finlay an extremely hard worker and pointed to the Orlando City SC game as one where he really dug in to help the team. He admitted that Finlay had a tough week playing significant minutes in all three games.
- The head coach said that there have been different things that have gone wrong when the team hasn't gotten the results they wanted. He said soccer is a game of inches and small plays have affected them. He pointed to the fluke-esque goal against the Chicago Fire, but said the team doesn't want to get into the excuse business.
- Crew SC aren't still searching for the right combination on the back line, despite conceding at least two goals in each of the last seven contests (all since Hernan Grana departed). Berhalter said they played down a man in two of the last few games and had an inexperienced group. The team wants to tighten up defensively, but defense is a team game.
- Berhalter was asked about his team getting up more for bigger games and said he hopes that's not the case. "Every game is important and every game means the same." Berhalter said they should be preparing to win and perform well in every game.
- Berhalter said Wil Trapp is doing well and making progress.
- The head coach said the first game that midfielder Cedrick will be eligible to play in is July 11 (at Montreal) and the plan is to get him in town by the end of June/early July. Berhalter said the midfielder is with his national team now for a game. They want to give him some time off after a long season. Said they talk to the player once a week typically.