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Reserve Players Have Become a Spark for Columbus Crew SC

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It's not easy when you aren't a starter for a team, but the impact you can make is still felt.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Just a few weeks back, Columbus Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter wanted more from his team.

After acquiring forward Jack McInerney from the Montreal Impact, Berhalter was asked why the club would bring in another forward - with a high price tag - when Major League Soccer's top goal scorer is already established in the single striker role.

Berhalter said simply that he wanted more production from his team offensively. Although Crew SC was near the top of the league in goals scored, Kei Kamara's 17 strikes were nearly half of the team's production. Berhalter wanted goals from more than the four other players that had scored up to that point.

Just over a week later and Berhalter got his wish thanks to the production of his bench.

In a week where the Black & Gold scored five goals and had to come from behind in both games played, it was substitutes that sparked the rally, scoring twice and providing an emotional lift for the team.

"We're having an incredible push from the whole squad to get playing time and it's happening in a positive way where these guys are pushing each other to get in the 18, to get in the 11, to get subbed in," Berhalter explained this week. "It's really having a good affect on the group."

Midfielder Cedrick Mabwati and McInerney both came off the bench to score for Columbus. Cedrick provided the equalizer against New York City FC last Wednesday, while McInernrey put Crew SC up 3-2 late in the win over Sporting Kansas City on the weekend.

While these two players scored the goals, they haven't been the only ones contributing. Both Hector Jimenez and Mohammed Saeid have provided energy off the bench lately and forward Aaron Schoenfeld worked hard in his time before McInerney arrived. But according to Berhalter, it goes deeper than that as the head coach credited the players not in the game day roster after the victory over Kansas City.

"It is not just the guys on the bench," Berhalter said. "It was the guys who were doing fitness at 12 o'clock this afternoon at Obetz, pushing these guys. You need competition, and we have been saying that. It is healthy competition and no one is giving up, everyone is pushing and that creates a competitive environment."

It's difficult at times to be one of those guys who don't always see the field or make the bench. These players are an important part of any successful team, yet typically don't get the credit they deserve. For Crew SC, these guys have gone about their business because they know there's always the chance their name could be called.

"The first thing they should know and they do know is that they'll get an opportunity," Berhalter explained. "We've given a lot of guys opportunities this year and if they put themselves in a position to get a chance, they will get that chance. They just have to keep going. It may not happen this week, it may not happen next week, but their time will come."

It is tough for a head coach to keep everyone positive and motivated, but that's what these managers get paid to do. According to Berhalter, his job has been pretty easy when it comes to that side of things.

"I don't need to do anything, you see the impact you can make," he said. "Our subs had a great impact on that game last week and the Wednesday match. They see the impact and they see when they come in and give a boost, how much it means to the team."