The Columbus Crew's Route Back to the Playoffs

How Columbus found its way back to the MLS playoffs this season
by Nino Torres   |   Tuesday, October 21, 2014

John Hefti Photography - Columbus Crew, Labor Strike, MLS, SoccerNewsday

Last week was Jairo Arrieta. This week, it was Aaron Schoenfeld’s turn to put his name on the scoreboard to beat New York on their own turf. And just like that the team could count with goals coming from every single offensive player on their roster. The drought is officially over, and Crew stadium will host a playoff game for the first time since 2011.

Forget about Toronto’s late disgrace.  Even if they would’ve won their game against Montreal on Saturday, the Crew controlled its destiny they didn’t depend on anybody else but themselves and they did it. With a brutal three consecutive road games against direct rivals, they got six out of nine possible points.  Since week 19, the Black & Gold is the team with most victories in the Eastern conference with nine W’s (tied with the New England revolution)

But how did they get there?

Take what Red Bulls said of the Crew after they lost against them: “Their off-ball movement was fantastic, as it always is, and we know this a team… I’m trying to think of another team on the league… this is one of the top teams as far as, if you go behind to them, they’ll keep the ball all day, and stretch you out.”

Possession, ball movement, aggressive play from the flanks, are the three concepts Gregg Berhalter has been preaching since that press conference when he was introduced as a head coach of the Columbus Crew last November. The year began with the Disney Classic championship followed by an impressive 3-0-0 and then they went flat with only two wins in 16 games. The ride was uncomfortably long for his first year coaching in the League, but Berhalter was patient, he knew the right path it’s never easy, just have to persevere and make the necessary adjustments.

In order to be above the thin red line, the Crew had to cross the halfway line. On the pitch, they were focused on secure the ball but they kept it on their own half too long. Once they stepped in the rival’s territory with 4 to 5 elements in their attacking plays, the massive victories appeared: 4-1 over The Galaxy, 3-0 over Houston, 3-0 over Chivas, 3-2 over Philadelphia, 3-1 over New York.

Of course none of these multi goals triumphs, nor to reach the playoffs, would be possible without the contribution of these players:

Justin Meram:  90% of his essential evolution goes through his mind. He not only learned that he has to believe in his talent, he does it every day. He no longer disappears during the games; he fights, takes the initiative, and he doesn’t deflect his duties as an attacking midfielder and he goes for it. The results? Eight goals and four assists.

Ethan Finlay: This is a team that doesn’t have a world class striker, but he is an electrifying winger who found his position and regulated his runs with focus on the back of the net. That approach and his accuracy led him to score 11 goals and provided 7 assist.

Tony Tchani: The only thing left in his season checklist is to score at least once. He understood that his presence near the box opens up the attacking spectrum for the team and makes his possession game more relevant.

Will Trapp: Side to side with Tchani, Trapp consolidated himself as the most accurate passer in the team and is also going deeper into the rival’s territory more often, much more.

Steve Clark:  Solid. He is having the kind of season that deserves a call from Jurgen Klinsmann. When things get hot, he gets cooler and bigger.

Federico Higuaín: The Argentinean is 2 assist shy of repeating his 11 goals and 9 assist from last year. He is been consistent and with the scoring help his counting on now he doesn’t have to be everywhere, and that helps him to call the plays from better angles.

This Saturday they have a chance to climb to the third place In the Eastern Conference and avoid the knockout round if they beat The Philadelphia Union at home and if Sporting Kansas City lose against New York.  Can The Crew make a deep run from here? They believe so.


Universidad de Piura
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Columbus Crew
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A natural born winger who landed in Buckeye country and is getting ready for 2018 by learning Russian, because he'll be there for the next World Cup. Spasibo! Currently in his fourth season covering The Crew.