After a red card gave the Crew a penalty kick and a man advantage in its 2-1 victory in Seattle Saturday, some are questioning the legitimacy of the win. But Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter is not one of those people.
Justin Meram, who scored the game-winner in the 94 th minute of the match, told MLSsoccer.com after the win that it was the first time he had felt like the team expected to go into a harsh environment and win. And after Crew training Tuesday, Berhalter echoed the same sentiment.
“If you look at the game, I think we went in and we wanted to dominate,” he told reporters. “When I think about possession, when I think about control of the game, I think we had a lot of control of that game. There were times when they certainly hurt us on the counter, and we made some mistakes that they took advantage of. But in terms of dictating the game, I think we did that.”
Berhalter said that while possession doesn't always result in a win, it points to a Crew performance that was far from sub-par.
“When I look at the statistics, that doesn't always tell the whole story, but Seattle is rarely out-possessed at home,” he said. “And no team in the last two years has had the possession advantage that we had in the first half. That's 11 versus 11. And we still had a pretty massive advantage on them.
“And then once they got a red card, it was an advantage that I don't think any team in history in that stadium has had. So I think it's a compliment to our group, how we were able to do that.”
While Seattle had its share of chances in the first half – several of which were thwarted by incredible goalkeeper play by Steve Clark – Berhalter said that the mistakes that led to the chances are the fixable part of the equation, and even down 1-0 at the half, he was happy in the locker room.
“Turf is slippery at times, the ball gets away from you at times, it was wet, slippery, you're playing hard balls in, the weight of the pass, sometimes the control wasn't there, they had guys in advantageous positions when we turned the ball over,” he said. “So that was the message. But I was happy. The general message was, 'well done, keep it up. Let's limit some of these things we're doing and keep on.'”
But Berhalter knows the team is far from a finished product, and said the squad is certainly not getting complacent despite sitting atop the east early in the season.
“I don't think anyone in the building thinks we can't improve, and that's the good part of it,” he said. “We all realize we can still get better...our movements we can improve upon, [there are] a lot of things. And they realize it as well.”