By all accounts, the partnership between the Columbus Crew and the Dayton Dutch Lions has been successful. And while the two sides have the potential to soon meet in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in a match that means a little bit more, the friendly they played on Tuesday night in West Carrollton, Ohio provided Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter's Crew with multiple benefits.
"I thought it was a great exercise," said Berhalter. "We wanted to give guys who haven’t been playing some minutes, but also play in an area where we have a relationship in, with Dayton. It was a good exercise, it was nice to get some fans out and it was overall a great day."
The Crew won 2-0 on a first-minute own goal and a fourth-minute tally from Ethan Finlay, but at the end of the day, the match was about player development and fostering the relationship between the Black & Gold and their USL-PRO affiliate. That relationship was evident through the play of loanees Aaron Schoenfeld and Matt Walker, who played well while wearing the Dutch Lion colors.
"They were [impactful]," said Berhalter. "They were both active, and they’ve been getting really good reports from the [Dayton] coaching staff. It’s good to see them play live. We’re glad that they’re contributing."
In total, 17 different Crew players made an appearance, including depth players like Fifi Baiden, Ben Sweat and Kevan George. Finlay, who played the full 90 minutes, said that the match was important to give the entire squad a chance to receive live game action.
"It’s a good opportunity for guys who haven’t gotten consistent minutes all year to get out and get 45, 90 minutes in a real game, outside of playing each other," said Finlay. "Without the Reserve League this year, guys 18-26 [years old] that haven’t been loaned out haven’t had much time this year. For those guys, and guys coming off the bench, it’s an opportunity to show that they can compete and [Gregg] Berhalter gets a good look at everyone."
The timing of the friendly was perhaps opportune, with Berhalter needing to mix up his backline starters for Saturday's match vs. Chicago. The Crew boss confirmed that his judgment of performance in the friendly, along with later performances in training, would help him decide who gets the nod.
"To be honest, at this stage, we’re looking at who’s going to be on the field," said Berhalter. "That’s not even decided yet. We have to evaluate that, and put a group on the field vs. Chicago that’s going to be able to perform."