The Columbus Crew is one day away from its home opener against Real Esteli in the CONCACAF Champions League. After the 4-0 win in Nicaragua last week, the Black & Gold are poised to make the Champions League quarterfinals. Wednesday afternoon, head coach Caleb Porter and midfielders Aidan Morris and Artur spoke to the meida to preview the second leg.
Here is a brief summary of the press conference and each person’s thoughts
- On Darlington Nagbe’s MRI: “He’s doing well. MRI went as good as can be expected. Did a little bit of work today and is doubtful for tomorrow. We will see on Sunday as well.”
- Caleb Porter is excited to have more fans in the stands for the 2021 season. “The supporters are the life blood of any club... For our club, they are certainly the soul and beating heart and the big reason we even have a club.” He mentioned the supporters “energy” is really going to help the players.
- Porter discussed midfield pairings and how guys aren’t direct “covers” for each other. He takes into account chemistry and current form rather than having straight swaps.
- Asked about mindset for Esteli match: “We never overlook any game. Our process is a winning process.” Porter says they will “play to score ” with the knowledge that just one goal means Esteli will need at least five.
- Porter says he trains 20 guys every day and said a few guys will play just 45 minutes for Thursday’s game. “We are never preparing one group. We are always preparing two.”
- “It’s a special thing being part of CONCACAF (Champion League), especially for me being in just my second year in the league.”
- Morris remarked on how traveling to Nicaragua was a “unique and cool experience.”
- Morris said the intensity in the Champions League isn’t “more or less than the MLS. It’s just different.”
- On his offseason: “This last offseason was important. Obviously the soccer aspect we just touched up on some details to expand my game and reach different levels.”
- Morris spent part of the offseason “winding down” with his family after a challenging 2020 season that included the pandemic.
- On his MLS Cup Final start: “It was awesome! Words can’t describe it. It was a unique, special experience to have my family there and to play in front of an amazing crowd.”
- Asked about his reaction to media attention, Morris said, “To be honest, I try not to really focus on a lot of it.” He is happy to have people support him but keeps his focus on the present. Morris’ family is a support system to keep him “humbled.”
- Morris said the midfield group of Nagbe and Artur has helped him “massively.” “I can’t even touch on how many things they have helped me with... Guys like Josh (Williams) and Jonah (Jonathan Mensah) are also investing in me.”
- Artur pinpointed the advantage Columbus has going into Thursday’s match. “We didn’t win the game yet but we have a good advantage and we gotta be smart about it, play the right way and be safe with the players.”
- On his injury and playing time last Thursday: “Pain wise, I felt okay even though the turf was a little hard.” Artur didn’t play in preseason too much and he’s only trained five days with the group. He highlighted its been four months since his hernia surgery.
- On the Crew being favorites: “I think me and most everybody here, we don’t like being favorites.” Artur said they are keeping a humble mentality. “We got to work for what we want to achieve. Nobody is going to give it to us.”
- Artur said Champions League and MLS are different for the way the players play and with no VAR in the CCL. He mentioned also the physicality, travel, two-legs, field and more.
- Asked about the scouting of Real Esteli, Artur said, “Our coaching staff did a really good job.” They knew the player’s strong foots and strategy.
- Asked about Aidan Morris’ growth, Artur remembered him from his time in the Crew’s Academy. “He’s got strength, power and also is understanding the game more. I see him improving every day... “The club is going the right way because sometimes you don’t have to go out and look for players because sometimes you have it at home.”