A disappointing result, but a performance to build on. Crew SC's season opener in Portland may not have gone how the Black & Gold envisioned it, but it was a match that offered many positive takeaways for Columbus.
In a hostile environment at Providence Park, Crew SC showed moments of greatness and controlled the majority of play. While the Timbers excelled in transition to defeat the Black & Gold 2-1, Columbus took its game to Portland and dictated the direction of its first road match.
“To be honest, I felt like we had control of the match,” Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter said. “Obviously, they were extremely dangerous in offensive transition and it caught us off guard a couple times, but I think we were the team really looking to dictate the play so I’m happy about that—especially in this atmosphere where the supporters are fantastic. It’s a hostile atmosphere and we looked to control the game and move the tempo.”
The Black & Gold showed control, possessing over 60 percent of play, while registering 84 percent passing accuracy. One of Crew SC’s most impressive distributors, Vice Captain and midfielder Wil Trapp, said his team made a lot of good things happen Sunday night.
“It’s a great opportunity to come here in front of a hostile crowd and start the season off,” he said. “Obviously, every game we play, we want to win, but I think leading into our home opener next week, we’re stronger from this performance.”
Although Crew SC conceded a goal in each half, Federico Higuaín put the Black & Gold on the scoreboard with an incredible bicycle goal to rally his teammates and supporters. He found half a yard to separate himself from Timbers’ bearded-defender Nat Borchers, where he popped it up and smashed it home.
Pipa had a second opportunity to tie the match again in the 85th minute, but the post was on Portland’s side and the Timbers kept the lead. The opportunities were there for Crew SC with 19 shots and 32 crosses on the night and Berhalter said the team’s mentality was in the right spot as well.
“We could have done a better job of controlling defensive transition, limiting some of the damage there, but it’s a good mindset,” he said. “I think the guys were proactive. They wanted to play, they wanted to push the tempo and I’m happy with that. It’s not easy to do that in Portland but we certainly did.”
With the first match of 2016 in the books, Crew SC now turns its attention to Black & Gold soccer returning to MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday. Columbus will use its performance in Portland to move forward and prepare to host the Philadelphia Union on March 12 at 7:30 p.m. ET.
“It’s something to build off,” Trapp said. “Obviously, it’s not going to be as sharp as you want, first game of the season, but we’re moving forward and looking forward to [Philadelphia] next week.”