Gregg Berhalter said Columbus Crew SC weren’t going to Charleston, S.C. to win the Carolina Challenge Cup, but that’s exactly what his team did on Saturday evening.
The Black & Gold defeated defending MLS Cup champions Seattle Sounders 1-0 to close out the preseason and secure the Cup.
Columbus won the opening game last weekend 2-1 over Atlanta United before a draw with hosts Charleston Battery giving them seven points to win the preseason tournament.
As promised, Berhalter put out what is expected to be similar to his first-choice lineup.
Columbus dominated much of the first half, but didn’t come away with a goal.
Winger Justin Meram had a good look deflected wide just two minutes in. Just before halftime, Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei came up with two near post saves, first on wingback Jukka Raitala and then on Meram.
The lone Seattle chance of the opening 45 minutes came win Román Torres found Will Bruin on a cross into the penalty area. The forward’s headed attempt was close but not on frame and the game remained scoreless.
Attacking midfielder Federico Higuain nearly opened the scoring at the start of the second half with a curling shot from outside the 18-yard box, but Frei came up big again diving to his left to make the stop.
After a flurry of Columbus chances that didn’t lead to a goal, the Sounders began to settle into the match, but Crew SC goalkeeper Zack Steffen stood up to the challenge.
The 21 year old made a diving save on forward Clint Dempsey’s volley and then denied Bruin with a body save two minutes later.
In the 82nd minutes, the Black & Gold finally opened the scoring thanks to rookie, and second half substitute, Niko Hansen.
The opportunity came when midfielder, and captain, Wil Trapp won the ball near midfield and played a streaking Hansen in on goal. The winger remained calm, slotting the ball past Frei for the opener and the winner.
Seattle had one more good chance to try and tie the game, but Steffen made the stop again diving to his left to deny Harry Shipp’s shot from the top of the 18-yard box.
The next time fans see Crew SC, it will be in the season opener in one week against the Chicago Fire.
- The starting lineup was about what was expected. Forward Ola Kamara continues to sit out with an injury, so Adam Jahn started in his typical place up top.
- The press that Berhalter is implementing this year is proving effective. It led to turnovers by Seattle in the midfield throughout the game and kept them from doing much offensively in the first half. The only question is how the team handles it as the match progresses.
- Jonathan Mensah looked like a stud at center back. The Ghanian is big and physical, but moves well and can possess the ball. In just two preseason game, this appears to be another good defensive signing from Berhalter.
- Mohammed Abu played his best game of the preseason. His passes, especially in the first half, were good. He appeared to tire a bit in the second 45 minutes.
- Ethan Finlay was nearly nonexistent for the Black & Gold on the right wing. He had one chance where he got behind the defense in the first half, but couldn’t get a shot off. Other than that was not a factor in this match, which is rare.
- His goal aside, Hansen looked good in limited minutes. He is still building his confidence, but looks like he could be a contributor off the bench on a team with little depth on the wings.
- Meet Zack Steffen, your 2017 Crew SC starting goalkeeper. He looked good again, even in possession and when under pressure.