KANSAS CITY, Kan. – All week leading-up to Sunday’s clash with Sporting Kansas City, Columbus Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter praised the quality of the side that his team was preparing to face.
On several occasions, Berhalter specifically mentioned the defensive capabilities of Sporting Kansas City—capabilities that shone through in the first half of the game, specifically in preventing Columbus quality possession in the final third. Berhalter said as much at halftime, indicating that he wanted his side to switch the field faster and get forward in space.
In the second half, Berhalter’s side took that message to heart. While his players did not crack goalkeeper Eric Kronberg, it was a total turnaround in attacking mettle and buildup.
“I thought we came out with more aggressiveness in the second half,” said Berhalter. “In all honesty, [Sporting] Kansas City is a better team right now. We’re not there yet, but I think it’s the way that we presented ourselves in the first half that I was disappointed with.
“In the second half, we came out and we played how we know to play. It was a lot better, and for that, I’m proud of the guys. We worked hard in the second half, and we had them on the ropes for a little bit. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that tying goal.”
For statistical evidence, consider that through 45 minutes of play, the Crew had completed just 13 passes in the final third. In the second half, Columbus more than tripled its output in that category, completing 43 such passes. That resiliency is even more impressive when factoring in the raucous environment of Sporting Park, full of fans eager to celebrate on a day when the defending champions received their MLS Cup rings.
“In the second half, we pressured them. We didn’t wait for them to pressure us,” said Dominic Oduro, who came on at halftime as a substitute. “We decided to dictate the game, and that’s what we did.”
While the Crew would have preferred to earn a result, the team can surely take some positives heading into Wednesday’s match at Houston (8:00 p.m. ET / Time Warner Cable SportsChannel) knowing that its second-half surge is evidence of their capability.