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Practice Pitch Updates: The Duka Arrival

Gregg Berhalter talked about the addition of a New Jersey native before Crew SC plays a team from there.

After Saturday’s 0-0 draw with the Montreal Impact at MAPFRE Stadium got Columbus Crew SC back in the swing of things after a two and a half week break, the Black & Gold are looking for a win this Saturday that will get the team moving up the Eastern Conference Standings.

On Tuesday, Crew SC trained for the second day this week in preparation for the New York Red Bulls on the weekend.

After stretching and light jogging, the team spent most of the session working on spacing and breaking the intense Red Bull press they will see Saturday night. On hand to help with this was the Crew SC college program that features some Homegrown players that graduated from the Academy and select other college players. They took part in a 11 vs. 11 drill where the college kids simulated what New York would look like.

After several smaller-sided drills, head coach Gregg Berhalter ended the hot and intense session before speaking to the members of the media on hand.

Conversation with Berhalter

  • On the Red Bulls, Berhalter said they’re a team that’s gotten together after a rough start to the year. He said he has a lot of respect for that team and what they do. He also said defensively New York has been much as of late.
  • Berhalter said both teams have changed slightly from the Eastern Conference Finals — where Crew SC won the series 2-1 on aggregate — and both teams have gone through ups and downs since then. He admitted the Red Bulls have done a better job than Columbus at rebounding from the downs.
  • There are some new wrinkles the team has identified that can hurt New York according to Berhalter. He said the two styles of play contradict each other and that always makes for an interesting game.
  • When asked what it would take to beat the Red Bulls, Berhalter said cheekily, "scoring more goals than them." After being prompted, he said that New York has an intensity to their game but no one is going to come into MAPFRE Stadium and bully around Crew SC.
  • On new signing Dilly Duka, Berhalter said his versatility made the midfielder attractive. Said the staff has seen him play the No. 10 role and either winger position.
  • Berhalter was okay with Duka being out of the league the last few months because of his familiarity with MLS. A new player would have to learn the league, while Duka must just get fit.
  • When asked if Duka is in contention for the Higuain role, Berhalter said they see him fitting a number of spots.
  • Berhalter was asked if what they gave the Montreal Impact for Duka’s rights was a small price to pay and he said the club was comfortable with it.
  • When asked how different this team could look in a couple months with the transfer window set to open on July 4, Berhalter said it’s hard to tell but Crew SC could look a little bit different.
  • Berhalter said Duka is probably a couple of weeks from being fully fit after his time off.
  • The goal is to bring in players that can make an impact like Gaston Sauro, Harrison Afful and Cedrick Mabwati did a year ago. Berhalter said there’s always risk when bringing in players and you have to accept failure in the transfer market.
  • Berhalter said the staff is still comfortable with the players on the team, but they still want to improve. Because of roster moves (Kei) there are positions that need strengthened from a numbers standpoint.
  • Asked about what the Duka moves for Emil Larsen, the head coach said it increases the competition at the position and that makes guys raise their level.
  • Berhalter said he thinks Duka can still grow and he will be a good fit with how Crew SC play. "I think you’ll be surprised what you see."