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Gregg Berhalter: ‘We lost total control of the match’

Crew SC didn’t look like Crew SC on Saturday.

MLS: New York City FC at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

One of the major issues from the 2016 Columbus Crew SC had been fixed: the Black & Gold aren’t conceding second half goals in mass any more. That is until last week.

Before Saturday’s 3-2 loss to New York City FC, Columbus had only allowed one goal over the final 45 minutes, that coming in a Week 2 loss to the Houston Dynamo.

For the sixth time this season, Crew SC gave up an early goal but were able to battle back to take the lead at the beginning of the second half. So far this year, the Black & Gold have been good at holding leads, only dropping two points from a winning positions.

Again, that was before Saturday.

“I think that the way I see it is that we lost total control of the match after we scored our second goal, complete control,” head coach Gregg Berhalter said following the defeat. “The movement wasn’t good enough, the passing wasn’t good enough, the ability to win balls from them wasn’t good enough and to be honest (New York City) deserved it. They definitely deserved this win because the second half from us was not good.”

After the eighth minute goal from City winger Jack Harrison, Columbus woke up and got back into the game. It took 21 minutes for the performance to result in an equalizer, courtesy of Federico Higuan’s half volley, but it appeared the Black & Gold had turned things around as they had in the prior matches in 2017.

“I think the first half could have been one of our best halves this year of soccer,” Berhalter said. “You know, nice spacing, getting guys in good positions, dangerous on crosses.”

The start to the second half seemed to reaffirm that when Ethan Finlay’s pressure led to a turnover that resulted in the go-ahead Ola Kamara goal. “I think after we scored that second goal it was nothing,” Berhalter said.

New York City dominated possession and pushed numbers forward. Crew SC went long periods without getting the ball into the attacking third, hardly even the offensive half.

City made Columbus work and it paid off with two goals in 12 minutes to take a lead for good.

“I think we just didn’t get a hold of the ball,” Crew SC captain Wil Trapp said. “We conceded a lot of possession, started to have to shift a lot, got tired every time we did win the ball. I don’t think we were in a good enough mental spot to play out of tight spots and get the ball out of pressure. So that just compounded onto them bringing wave after wave of pressure on us.”

In games like the 3-2 win over the Portland Timbers, the 2-0 victory over Orlando City and a 2-1 defeat of Toronto FC, all at home, the Black & Gold managed to hold on to second half leads. NYCFC were able to effect Columbus in a way other teams have not.

“What I think is they made us expend a lot of energy defensively,” Berhalter explained. “And because we couldn’t win the ball back, it put us in some tough spots when we had the ball in terms of the movement that we needed, the positioning that we needed. We weren’t getting into position.”

Credit to the Blues on figuring out a way to get that done.

Berhalter said he was frustrated with the result, especially considering New York City played without its two highest-paid players. But that game is in the past and Crew SC have to turn attention to what’s next.

This contest was the beginning of a three-game homestand, one in which the Black & Gold expected to build on a pretty good start to the year.

The next opponent is the New England Revolution, who have started the season 2-3-4, are 0-3-2 on the road and just gave up a three-goal lead to the Seattle Sounders last week.

While no one is calling this game a must win with only one-fourth of the year gone, it’s important to keep momentum moving in the right direction and not let things begin to spiral early in the season once again.

“We’ve got to light a fire,” Trapp said. “We’ve just got to snap out of it and attack teams. You see it in spurts but it is not sustained.”