It's become a theme of Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter's as he seeks to implement his personal stamp on the Black & Gold: the Crew boss wants to play attractive, entertaining soccer. That mantra has been preached by Berhalter consistently in 2014 as the club evolves on and off the field. That message was further echoed by club Chairman and Investor-Operator Anthony Precourt at today's press conference introducing new Crew President of Business Operations Andy Loughnane.
"We now have our bookends, our team that is going to go out and make the Columbus Crew stronger and better, more attractive on the field and more successful off," said Precourt, just a few hours before his club exploded for four goals over a perennial powerhouse in the LA Galaxy.
If you like quick statistics, here are a few that sum up the evening well. It was the first four-goal performance of the year for the Crew, which set a season-high in shots on target with 12. In front of a sellout crowd of 20,729, was this the embodiment of the entertaining, attractive style that Berhalter wants his side to play?
"I think so," said the Crew boss. "When you look at the first half, our ball movement and how we weren't scared to play, we were daring to play against a team like the Galaxy, it shows a lot. It shows a lot about what we've been working on and that the guys believe in it. They want to go out there and execute it. I was really proud of that. The fact that, listen, we're getting pressured and we're still going to try to play. We're going to keep playing, keep playing, and that was good."
At Loughnane's introductory presser, Precourt also said that the ultimate vision for the Black & Gold is that good business fuels good soccer and vice versa. Tonight's match, a "spotlight" contest of sorts with all of the storylines around it, further emphasizes that claim.
"That's what we're looking for every single week. We want to have a hot ticket," said Berhalter. "We want to have a game that the fans want to come to and that they're proud of a team from Columbus, that they're proud of their team. We're working hard for that. From our side, it starts with the type of soccer that we play.
"I talk to a lot of people, a lot of fans – they're enthusiastic about it. They say that it's identifiable and they like it. We're pleased with that. We're not always going to get results like tonight, but we're pleased. Keep pushing forward and keep doing the same thing."
Even Landon Donovan, making his final appearance in Columbus, had to tip his cap to what Berhalter is building here with the Crew.
"I think he's done an excellent job. He's made this team a team that's fun to watch and entertaining," said Donovan, a former Galaxy and U.S. Men's National Team teammate of Berhalter's. "I thought the way they played was very good tonight. Historically, this is a hard-working town and that's the way their team plays. Gregg certainly has that, but he's also implemented a style that’s attractive and fun to watch. I think he's done an excellent job; he did well tonight. We wish him the best going forward. We certainly want him to do well."
The victory gives the Crew a much-needed three points and a big victory headed into next weekend's closure of the three-match homestand as the Houston Dynamo comes to Columbus. A statement like that can only serve to increase confidence, as Ethan Finlay alluded to:
"I think it was a great result for us. It’s a game that hopefully we can look back at come November and say it was a turning point for us. It's a really good team over there with a championship pedigree, and we took it to them for 90 minutes tonight."