Wins are worth the same three points for the entirety of Major League Soccer’s regular season, but, despite that, it sometimes seems victories are more important in certain points of the year than in others.
That was the case for Columbus Crew SC on Saturday, when the team entered MAPFRE Stadium under pressure due to a four-game winless streak. The Black & Gold ultimately got the job done with a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes and, even if the team’s performance was not ideal, the three points were a good enough reason for celebration in the locker room.
“In my opinion, we lacked appropriate ball circulation tonight and it wasn’t our best night,” head coach Gregg Berhalter said about the match. “Again, we gave up a goal at the stroke of halftime. There were good stretches in the game and in the end of day you come out with three points and it’s one of those things that feel better because you got the win. We still want to improve, we still have things to work on, but it was important to get the win.”
Berhalter’s speech was echoed in the Black & Gold’s locker room after the match. Even if the most recent performances had been reasonably good, the team was struggling to get the results and to see their fortunes finally seeming to change was reassuring.
To winger Mike Grella, who came off the bench to score the game-winning goal, the team deserved better luck in the last few weeks and accomplishing a victory at home was a much-welcomed relief to the players.
“The games that we haven’t picked up all three points, and we tied and lost the last four, they were so undeserved. I thought we’ve played really, really well,” the 31-year-old veteran said. “I’ve never seen a team hit the post that many times and dominate games then not get much from it, so I think we were a little bit unlucky. We also needed a night like tonight, and San Jose wasn’t easy for us. We had to work for it until the end.”
As Grella mentioned, Crew SC had to grind until the final minutes of the match to get the result it was looking for. Grella’s goal was scored in the 84th minute, after almost 40 minutes of heavy insistence from the Black & Gold.
For captain Wil Trapp, the team was rewarded for never giving up and fighting tooth and nail for the victory.
“It’s very important, especially at home, to be resilient,” the midfielder commented. “This was a game where we were resilient, it was a game we felt like we should win the game and went on to do so. We had big moments from guys and a lot of hard work and grinding it out at times is the best way to get the team back on track.”
The positive result took tons of pressure out of the team’s back. Despite acknowledging that Crew SC was playing a good soccer over the last weeks, the lack of results left no room for mistake.
To Designated Player Pedro Santos, who assisted for Grella’s goal, now that the winless streak is finally over, the Black & Gold should expect improvement in the next matches.
“It was important for us to win this game,” the Portuguese remarked. “We lost three matches and everybody thought we deserved to win the last one. We fought to have better results every match and wow we can play calmer, without that extra pressure and I believe that will make us play better next week.”
A World Cup veteran, right-back Harrison Afful was another important player on Crew SC’s victory as the scored the team’s first goal. For him, in good or bad moments, the recipe for success is the same.
“When things are not going your way, you just have to remain strong,” the defender stated. “It’s always ups and downs. That’s the journey, you never give up and keep working day in and day out. At the end of the day, you will get your results. That is what we keep doing. We enjoy this moment, but keep working hard.”