Draw with Orlando City SC a test of Black & Gold's character
In a sloppy, rain-soaked affair in Central Florida on Wednesday night, the Crew battled adversity several times to draw USL PRO side Orlando City SC, 4-4, in the final match of Group A play in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic. The Black & Gold certainly seemed headed for defeat when City's Dennis Chin scored to make it 4-3 in the 89th minute, but Crew winger Ethan Finlay netted his second of the match in stoppage time to equalize for the fourth time in the match and secure a point for his side.
Coming back four times in one match was a reflection on his team's mentality, Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter said after the match.
"When we got into gear and decided we were going to go for it, we started playing better," Berhalter commented. "The defending at times wasn't great, but the character and the work-rate and the attitude to never give up was there. That was important.
"It's easy to get down when you go behind, but they didn't."
Perhaps Wednesday's match was a microcosm of the Crew's Orlando camp so far: a battle of mental toughness.
"Anyone will tell you that this camp wasn't easy," defender Eric Gehrig said. "The guys dug deep, came together and we got through some trying days.
"I think the shift is in the right direction."
Though the weather was anything but ideal, the match was surely a thriller for fans at the ESPN Wide World of Sports as Finlay recorded a brace, Justin Meram added a goal and an assist and Ryan Finley found the back of the net in the eight-goal stalemate. The offensive output combined with the conditions made for entertainment, even for the players.
"That's what you play for, those exciting matches," Meram said after the match. "I'm sure the fans have an amazing time and the coaches have a terrible time, do you know what I mean?"
The winger continued: "Overall, you've got to give credit to our guys. We were down numerous times in the game and we fought back. We never gave up and played to the last whistle."
The match gave Berhalter a closer look at several players as roster decisions loom in the coming week. Wednesday's draw will help the Sporting Director and Head Coach and his staff draw several conclusions on those future decisions.
"This game was good for us to be able to evaluate the guys," Berhalter explained. "We're pretty much set with the majority of group, but there were some people we were undecided on. I think this game gave us a good indication of this final evaluation period."
With the two wins prior in group play against Toronto FC and the Philadelphia Union, the Crew had already clinched a spot in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic Final on Saturday, where it will face reigning MLS Cup champion Sporting KC (8:00 p.m. ET / WatchESPN).