Gregg Berhalter discusses Columbus Crew SC’s 1-0 over the Houston Dynamo.Posted by Massive Report on Saturday, August 11, 2018
Fullback Harrison Afful nearly opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a shot from long distance. It skipped past Houston goalkeeper Joe Willis, just by the left post, and out for a goal kick.
In the 31st minute, Crew SC tested the Dynamo for the second time when Pedro Santos fired a left-footed shot from distance that again skipped past Willis and rang the post. Santos got off a second shot just minutes later that Willis grabbed easily as the Columbus offense started to find a rhythm.
Houston was content to sit back and spring forward on the counter attack. The visitors found their chances, taking six shots, but only one was inside the penalty box. None of the chances forced a big save
Columbus got its first chance of the second half in the 52nd minute. Mike Grella slipped through the Dynamo midfield. As the defense collapsed on him, he slid a pass to Federico Higuain. The playmaker’s shot was parried and Grella tried to steer the ball into the top corner but put it over the crossbar.
Houston nearly scored on a counter in the 59th minute as the ball found forward Mauro Manotas. His shot forced a diving save from goalkeeper Zack Steffen just inside the right post. Crew SC cleared the danger from the resulting corner kick.
Justin Meram made his Crew SC return a minute earlier and nearly made an instant impact in the 61st minute as he created a chance slipping in a pass to Higuain. It was a repeat of his earlier chance as his shot was once again saved. The resulting corner didn’t result in a shot.
Houston tested Steffen again in the 73rd minute. Adam Lundqvist sent a deep ball into the penalty box. Leonardo clipped it down into the path of winger Andrew Wenger whose shot forced another big save, but left a rebound. Afful jumped on the loose ball and put it out for a corner before the Dynamo could create another chance.
With a disappointing tie looming, Afful and Zardes sparked magic to rescue all three points. Receiving the ball from Artur, Harrison took a touch and fired in a long cross that caught the Dynamo defense flat footed. Both second half substitute Patrick Mullins and Zardes moved towards the ball, but Mullins left the the pass for Zardes who took a quick touch and put his shot past Willis to secure the lead in the first minute of stoppage time. Calls of offside were waved off after the video review official declined to prompt Mark Geiger to check the goal. It was clear that Zardes was on and Mullins, who may have been offside, was deemed not to have made a move to the ball.
Houston tried to push forward, but the Crew SC defense easily held off the punchless Dynamo attack to finish off stoppage time and seal the win.
The late switch
Houston was content to play with three center backs augmented by stay-at-home wing backs. It made for a very hard to break down defensive formation. Zardes struggled as the Dynamo defense had the numerical advantage. The introduction of Mullins in the 75th minute changed the dynamic. Then there were two forwards on the field, wingers with space to move inside, and overlapping wing backs to provide more attacking options. The three center backs had a lot more to worry about and that played a big role in the goal.
Meram went 30 minutes in his second debut with the team and showed flashes of the skill that made him an impact winger in prior seasons. His passes weren’t as sharp as normal, missing on four of 17. It’s also clear that he has an edge that Crew SC has missed on the wing with a key pass just a minute into his second stint with the team. He will be a vital cog as he rounds into form.
The win sends Columbus to a 11-7-6 record and puts the team on 39 points, safely ensconced in fourth place in the Eastern Conference on the season. Next, Crew SC heads to play Atlanta United on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET. Atlanta leads the Eastern Conference and beat Columbus 2-0 on June 13.