The Columbus Crew SC Media Day means that the home opener is just a few days away. It also is the only time during the season that a full Black & Gold practice is fully open to the media. This means it’s the one real chance to get a sense of the team in the early portion of the year.
With watchful media eyes on hand, Crew SC went through a full training session, but weren't going to do anything too revealing.
The day began with the usual warm up of stretching and runs before the team broke into three groups (blue, gray, and orange) of seven. Two of the teams were placed on either side of a small field with cones at half field to mark a barrier. The goal of the drill appeared to be get at least 10 consecutive passes on your side and then get the ball through a designated "goal" on either edge of the field. One team was the "defense" and went back and forth between the two half fields attempting to break up the series of passes.
This obviously is working on possession, but also quick passes in tight spaces while under pressure. Some teams have countered Gregg Berhatler's style of play with a high press and this drill is targeted to help get out of those situations.
After about 15 minutes on that drill, the team had some fun. While still within their three teams, two -- and sometimes three for the gray team for some reason -- representatives would lie down in the middle of the field and an assistant coach would tell them either "change" (meaning roll to the left or right), or yell a color that represented what cones to run to. The players had to listen to the instructions and respond quickly, then it was a race to get both players from the same color to the finish line first.
This drill caused a lot of laughs as several players (namely Harrison Afful) tried to guess which color was about to be yelled and get a head start. A wrong guess put the player out of the race rather quickly.
Following the fun, it was time to get back to the serious business. After all, there is a game on Saturday.
Crew SC played an offense vs. defense game where the attacking team had a goal -- with a goalkeeper -- to attack, while the defense had to get the ball to a certain point on the opposite end of the designated field. The teams rotated a few times, but began with what was close to the first-team offense against the starting defense.
Following that, the group was separated into two teams for an 8 v. 8 game with Federico Higuain as the all-time offensive player. The blue team was made up of Tyson Wahl, Rodrigo Saravia, Chad Barson, Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani, Corey Ashe, Cedrick Mabwati, and Ola Kamara. The gray team featured Kei Kamara, Hector Jimenez, Ethan Finlay, Mohammed Saeid, Emil Larsen, Michael Parkhurst, Afful, and Amro Tarek. Those teams were rotated some to include other players.
Berhalter stopped the drill a few times to emphasize key points and once was clearly displeased with his team for a possession, though it was hard to hear what he was upset about.
Following the practice. The players spoke with the many media members in attendance before things concluded. Berhalter and Parkhurst were a part of a press conference in the Heineken Lounge before food was served compliments of Levy Restaurants (more on that later).
Notes from practice
- Ola Kamara, who did not travel with the team to Portland due to a lingering injury, participated in the full training and appeared to be full go.
- During the offense vs. defense portion of practice, Cedrick began with the offensive staters from Sunday's match. He was on the left wing in favor of Hector Jimenez.
- Also during that drill Amro Tarek slid to stop Kamara from getting the ball up field and appeared to land on his hand awkwardly. He stayed down for a few minutes, but was looked at by the trainers and returned to playing.
- After I told colleague Patrick Guldan that Tony Tchani was hurting Wil Trapp's team in racing, Tchani was always the first or second player to cross the line every time. While he doesn't always look like he's moving fast, Tchani apparently is one of the faster players on the team when he wants to be.
- One of the questions asked to all of the players and Berhalter was about Higuain's bicycle kick goal from Sunday. While everyone was impressed by Pipa's finish, the team was ultimately disappointed it didn't come in a winning effort.