The Crew earned its third victory in four preseason matches on Saturday afternoon in Orlando against Toronto FC to kick off the Disney Pro Soccer Classic. New additions Dominic Oduro, Gláuber and Matías Sánchez made their debuts in Black & Gold, starting the match for Robert Warzycha's side.
The difference-maker came at the half-hour mark when Gláuber headed Federico Higuaín's corner kick service past Toronto goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
As the Crew's playmaker and designated set-piece taker, Higuaín makes everything easier on his teammates with his pinpoint accuracy in dead-ball situations.
"Having somebody with that kind of quality makes it a lot easier for everybody," defender Josh Williams said after the game. "Once [Higuaín] gets on the ball, everybody kind of relaxes and you can make runs off him because you know he's going to keep it close. With his skill and his vision, you can make runs off him and have faith that he'll get it to you. Someone like him is always fun to play with."
With weapons like Williams, Chad Marshall and Gláuber (all standing over 6-foot-2) at Higuaín's disposal, it was no surprise to Warzycha to see the Brazilian score in his debut.
"[Gláuber] is going to be good in the box because he is a physical presence and he's good in the air," the Head Coach said. "He made a great run to score the goal."
DIFFERENT LOOK MIDFIELD
Winger Ben Speas was the only returnee to the Crew midfield from its previous three preseason matches to start Saturday's contest. Speas returned to start on the left side of midfield after coming off the bench in the last two matches, Agustín Viana played holding midfielder after featuring at leftback against Chicago and New York, Matías Sánchez made his debut to pair with Viana centrally and Dominic Oduro started in place of Eddie Gaven on the right side, who remains in Columbus following the birth of his second child last weekend.
While there were some bright spots in midfield play on Saturday, Warzcyha hopes to see more improvement before the regular season starts on March 2.
"I think as the season goes on and we get more games, the midfield will be more solid than today," Warzycha explained. "There were some very good things that they did, but there are also some things that need to be better."
"I think we still have some things to work on, but also we have good players and they've kept good possession. Hopefully they will be very solid [in the regular season]," the Head Coach finished.
DEFENSE KEEPS ANOTHER SHUTOUT
The Crew first-choice backline kept its fourth clean sheet in four games, with Gláuber stepping in to pair with Chad Marsall centrally and Tyson Wahl sliding back out to the left in front of Andy Gruenebaum, who returned to the starting lineup after missing the last two matches due to a minor injury.
Marshall, Wahl and Williams have started every match of the preseason thus far. With improving the overall defensive unit a top priority for the Crew front office during the offseason, Marshall and Williams have developed a chemistry with newcomers Gláuber, Agustín Viana and rookie Chad Barson.
"Chad and Tyson have known each other since they were nine, they were saying," Williams said. "That makes it easy. Chad and I played together all last year and sometimes before that in training. I think we've got a good solid group and with Gláuber coming in with his experience, I think he comes right in and fits in nicely."
"Last year through injuries and things like that, it was a constant rotation," Williams continued. "It was a merry-go-round in the backline and that's not easy. I think this year we've brought in a couple quality experienced guys in Gláuber, [Agustín], Viana and now Matías [Sánchez] in front of us and with Tyson coming in as well."
In his second year as a starter, the 24-year-old Williams hopes to keep learning from his more experienced teammates.
"I'm just trying to learn and do everything to feed of them to kind of pick their brain a little bit," he said. "So far, I think Chad [Marshall] and Gláuber are going to win pretty much everything in the air and Tyson and I are pretty good-sized guys too. So far, everything in the air has been solid. Now we just have to work on shape and formation"