As the old saying goes: "A win is a win."
It wasn't pretty, but the Crew finished group play undefeated in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic with Saturday night's 3-2 victory over USL-Pro side Orlando City SC. Argentine playmaker Federico Higuaín provided two set-piece assists to Agustín Viana and Josh Williams respectively, while also converting the match-winning penalty kick in the victory.
Major League Soccer's Newcomer of the Year in 2012 has been in fine form thus far in the 2013 preseason, scoring two goals and chipping in three assists in six games as the Black & Gold prep for the regular season.
"The two assists and the goal tonight speak for themselves," Head Coach Robert Warzycha said. "[Higuaín] is a good player, we know that. He needs to see the ball as much as possible and good things happen."
Most of the Crew's regular starters went the whole 90 minutes Saturday night with the regular season opener against Chivas USA on March 2 just two weeks away.
"We definitely wanted to treat this like a regular season game," defender Josh Williams explained. "We go into every game with a purpose: to get better. The season is right around the corner, so [in Orlando] we definitely wanted to take these games seriously and prepare for the season the right way. I think it's shown so far."
Seven cautions were shown in Saturday's match, including the sending off of Orlando City midfielder James O'Connor. Several scuffles broke out in the match following a few harsh tackles, a sign of fatigue on both sides.
"It was a pretty typical game," Willaims said. "You get two teams that are competing that hard in preseason, it's always going to be a little chippy. Guys are still getting in form and not everyone has their legs under them, so there are going to be some mistimed tackles. Overall, I thought the game was alright. There wasn't anything too dangerous and I think both teams competed hard."
The Black & Gold will face the Montreal Impact in the Championship match of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic next Saturday before heading to Greensboro, NC for the inaugural Kirk Urso Memorial Match against the University of North Carolina on February 24.
If the Crew's three goals from deadball play on Saturday night were any indication, set-pieces will be a key weapon for the Black & Gold in 2013.
With Eddie Gaven, Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuaín's ability to draw fouls in and around the penalty area, each match should provide ample opportunity for Higuaín's right-footed service to one of MLS' taller backlines in the box.
"Set-pieces are huge for us," Josh Williams said. "Our backline is probably one of the biggest in the League now. I think any time you can get the big guys forward, and with a weapon like Federico who is always going to put it in a dangerous spot, it's our job to just get on the end of it and finish."
"I think we are going to be dangerous at set-pieces," Robert Warzycha added. "They are part of the game and we're happy that we have players that can finish crosses and then we have very good service from Federico. If we can be dangerous [on set-pieces], we're going to win some games."
Williams, who scored one goal last season, was happy to hit the back of the net on Saturday after several bizarre denials throughout 2012.
"Last year was a pretty rough year for me as far as offense went, but it felt good to contribute," the 24-year-old said. "Whenever I get a chance to get forward on deadballs or corner kicks, I take pride in that and I think that's my contribution to the team on the offensive end. It felt good. Pipa sent a great ball in and I got on the end of it and it was a good finish."
Centerback Chad Marshall left early on in Saturday night's game with an apparent head injury suffered on Agustín Viana's scoring play. Though Robert Warzycha expects to have Marshall back in the lineup for the next match, he believes his club has the depth to carry on without the two-time MLS Defender of the Year.
"I talked to Chad on the field," the Head Coach said. "I think he's going to be alright and ready for the next game, but having Tyson Wahl, Drew Beckie, Viana and the other guys, I think we have some guys that can step in and play."
"When somebody goes out like that, I think we have enough depth in the back that I can slide over, or we can bring in Drew Beckie or we've got Chad [Barson] on the outside," Josh Williams said.
He continued: "I think we've got a lot of depth. We can even bring in [Eric] Gehrig, he's always solid back there. I'm very confident with our depth in the back and I think the rest of our team is as well."