Major League Soccer’s international break isn’t over yet, but Columbus Crew SC returned to the practice field on Thursday morning. The Black & Gold don’t play a league match until June 18, but must prepare to enter the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Wednesday when the Tampa Bay Rowdies come to Columbus.
As members of the media entered the EAS Training Center, Crew SC was finishing up with the final drill of the day, focused on getting the ball wide and crossing the ball. It appeared head coach Gregg Berhalter was having his wide players target certain areas for the crosses.
After the drill concluded, Berhalter spoke with the gathered media members.
Conversation with Berhalter
- Asked about what was beneficial about the week break, the head coach said that the players have been going hard since January and this gives them a time to relax both their bodies and their minds.
- The Open Cup match means that the team has an immediate chance to get back to work. Berhalter said the team is excited about the game.
- Berhatler wouldn’t classify the Rowdies as an "unfamiliar opponent." He said the staff has been watching tape on Tampa Bay and feel comfortable with what they will face on Wednesday. He said the match won’t be easy but Crew SC will be prepared.
- For the Rowdies, this match gives the club a chance to advance in the Open Cup and potentially go against another MLS opponent. For Columbus, it gives the staff a chance to give some younger players playing time, but also a chance to compete in a different venue and environment.
- The Black & Gold will play the Open Cup match at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Berhalter said Crew SC have a strong relationship with the Buckeyes through different programs and that accentuates that relationship.
- When asked about balancing giving young players game experience in the Open Cup and advancing in the tournament, Berhalter said it’s all about the long-term plan. He said they have to be smart about players physically, but they plan on putting a team on the field that will compete.
- Berhalter said it's easier to have a break after the loss to the Philadelphia Union. He said the players were able to get away and not think about the defeat as much. The head coach also indicated the team has looked at the tape and moved on. Said they feel comfortable Crew SC can play with a team like Philly and are not happy they didn’t get more out of the match.
- On the debuts of Ben Swanson and and Cristian Martinez, Berhalter said it was unexpected to have two key players - Federico Higuain and Mohammed Saeid - go down, but that happens in soccer and all of a sudden you have two 19-year olds on the field. He said they both got minutes and Martinez got a goal, so it was good.
- On the red card to forward Conor Casey, Berhalter called it too bad because you’d like to put pressure on Philadelphia over the last 15 minutes and push for the equalizer. He made sure to mention that the card was rescinded by the league.
- Asked about Swanson’s preseason concussion setting him back with Crew SC’s affiliate the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Berhalter said it has but that’s something every player deals with. Said Swanson must be getting minutes at the USL level in order to ever earn MLS time and the Black & Gold staff has made it clear no Columbus player should be given anything they don’t earn.
- Berhalter spent most of his break in Chicago at a coaching clinic. He said it was excellent and he appreciated both the dedication of MLS coaches to take it seriously and U.S. Soccer for getting good instructors and putting on a good class. He said about nine MLS coaches attended the classes.
- On Ola Kamara, Berhalter said he’s been good. He noted that he was getting chances and now he's converting them. Said it’s up to the team to continue to find Kamara in good spots.