This past weekend, Columbus Crew SC beat Atlanta United for the first time ever, playing in a miserable downpour that began with a goal in the 2nd minute from winger Pedro Santos in front of just under 11,000 dedicated fans at MAPFRE Stadium.
Was that a soccer game or the sequel to the movie Waterworld?
Crew captain Wil Trapp spoke following the game about how the team’s mentality during the first 20 minutes of the game set the tone against the defending MLS Cup champions.
“It was very much a front-foot, aggressive type of mentality that generated chances, generated us on the ball, dictated tempo, (created) goal scoring opportunities and ultimately a goal,” Trapp said. “Making things happen is what this team is starting to find our groove in and that’s a good thing to see.”
You could see this in Black & Gold winger Robinho, who continues to evolve in this respect, contributing his first Major League Soccer assist against Atlanta. Expect more assists and goals from the Brazilian throughout this season.
Finding a way to win, regardless of the weather, will provide head coach Caleb Porter helpful whiteboard material, serving as a point of motivation when grit will be necessary to grind out certain results later this year.
As Columbus hosts the New England Revolution this weekend — already the second time they’ve faced each other this year — putting the foot firmly on the pedal at kickoff should become commonplace with a Crew roster that supports an attacking mentality. Moreover, the Revolution squad coming to MAPFRE Stadium this Saturday night (current weather forecast shows a 10 percent chance of rain) has conceded six goals in just the past three matches, which certainly has to be infuriating for its coach, former Crew and U.S. National Team goalkeeper Brad Friedel.
Having defeated the Revolution 2-0 at Gillette Stadium last month, Porter will be looking to replicate the result of the Atlanta game — or at least the first half — in which the Columbus coach was particularly happy with the build up his team established that doubled the Crew’s lead in the 39th minute, courtesy of a goal by Gyasi Zardes.
“When you look at our second goal, there were 14 passes that led to the goal,” Porter said.
Possession with purpose, promoted most famously today by Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, prioritizes the completion of 15 passes in build-up play before a team can successfully attack an opponent’s goal. Fourteen passes can be rounded up in this case. This is important because getting into a systematic rhythm will help Columbus with consistency and expectations between players, all the while surprising opponents with in-the-moment ingenuity by its many capable playmakers.
Ultimately, it’s a good thing that the recent defeat by the Philadelphia Union bothered Porter and Co. to the point where no amount of interference from Mother Nature would stand in the way of a win at home and three points versus a tough and frustrated Atlanta that was (and still is) desperate for a statement win in 2019. The embarrassing 3-0 loss against the Union a couple of weeks ago should not be quickly forgotten because resiliency can only be tested and revealed during and after difficult situations. Columbus can breathe easier now knowing it passed its first test of resiliency under Porter.
When it rains, it pours. But when that literally happened last Saturday, the Crew’s resiliency weathered the storm.