It’s possible that Saturday’s 4-1 over Orlando City SC doesn’t mean much for Columbus Crew SC in the grand scheme of things. If the Black & Gold don’t get their act together and perform at a similar level in the remaining six contests, that win will go down as one good game in a season of letdowns.
But it’s also possible it could mean something more.
“It feels good,” head coach Gregg Berhalter reflected on the game Tuesday following training.
It’s been a rough year for Crew SC and Saturday was just the sixth win of the season for a club that had 15 such results the year prior. The Columbus players and coaches needed something like that if nothing more than to help morale.
For Berhalter, it was also a bit of validation.
“It becomes difficult when I sit here and tell you guys that we’re not that bad, we’re not playing that bad and (we’re) not getting the results,” he said. “That becomes the challenge of it. It’s almost hard for me to even say even if I believe it because it sounds like an excuse, it sounds like we’re happy with where we are and that’s not the case. A game like Saturday, in a small way validates what we’ve been saying that we can play. We’re a dangerous team. We can pick teams apart no matter who they are. Not too many teams go in there and win 4-1. It hasn’t happened in the history of their complex. So we’re doing some things okay.”
The win was important both for the standings and how dominant the Black & Gold looked, something that hadn’t happened in a long time. With that said, no one is getting ahead of themselves.
“We’re still in a tough spot and the message to the group today is this week (against the New England Revolution) becomes a very important game,” Berhalter said. “It’s another opportunity to put ourselves in position and nothing more than that because we’re still a good ways out. So we’re going to keep fighting. I said that to the guys. We’re going to keep doing everything we can to make this close. It’s going to be important on Sunday.”
In a season of injuries, two key pieces for Crew SC success continue to sit out of game action.
Midifielder Wil Trapp has missed the last three matches after suffering a concussion in a collision on Aug. 27. Trapp has been present at the EAS Training Center since the injury, but not an active participant until Tuesday.
“I think he’s doing well,” Berhalter said of the 23-year old. “He’s progressing. A nice hot day, give him some intense action. So I think it was pretty good. We’ll just have to see how he progresses throughout the week.”
During the portion of practice open to the media, Trapp worked with the rest of the team in a small-sided game. He wore a concussion headband, but was full go for the first time since the collision and appeared to be his normal self.
As for Federico Higuain, Columbus’ No. 10 was absent from training.
“We’re still trying to push him along and I’m sure we’ll see him in some capacity as the week goes on,” Berhalter updated. “I’m not sure we’ll see him on the weekend; we’ll have to see. It will be day to day.”
After missing nearly two months earlier in the year following sports hernia surgery, Higuain returned for five matches before again missing time due to a similar issue. With only six games remaining in 2016, this will be the fewest matches played by the Columbus attacking midfielder since he arrived partway through 2012.
With the final playoff spot seven points away, the Black & Gold would love to see these two suit up again before the end of the regular season.