Justin Meram CLBvRSL
Greg Bartram / USA Today Sports Images

Sirk’s Noteblog: Throw-ins

A few miscellaneous throw-ins from Saturday’s 4-3 victory over Real Salt Lake…

MAGNIFICENT MERAM

After Crew SC fell behind 1-0 early, Justin Meram unleashed a few minutes of magnificence that propelled Columbus to a 2-1 lead. First, in the 17th minute, he shredded the RSL defense to turn the corner on the left flank before passing the ball across the goalmouth, setting up Ola Kamara’s first of three goals on the night.

In the 20th minute, he made a goal…

“I didn’t have a goal,” Meram corrected.

Right, but he made a goal happen even if soccer’s own-goal rule deprives him of any and all personal credit. Meram picked the pocket of RSL midfielder Sunny near the center circle, then dribbled right up the gut of the RSL defense. The center backs converged on Meram just outside the penalty area, but as they took him down, the ball bounced off of Aaron Maund and then Justen Glad and then caromed past a helpless Nick Rimando and into the net.

“I took a gamble,” Meram said. “I kinda saw (Sunny’s) back was turned and I heard his teammates tell him to turn so I made a gamble and made a good play on it. I was on my way and they were flying and they kind of took me out as it happened. Fortunately, it went in. It was the luck we needed.”

Own goal: Justen Glad = Own goal. Justin glad.

Also glad was Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter, regarding Meram’s performance.

“Justin’s been playing at a high level ever since the first four games of the season perhaps,” Berhalter said. “His level has been really high, and it’s good to see him. He’s dynamic, he’s good on the ball, good defensively. You see today getting a goal from his defensive efforts, and it’s great to see him playing at such a high level.”

Ola Kamara deservedly got the headlines for the first Crew SC hat trick in a dozen years, but one could argue that Meram’s three-minute rampage to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead was the key turning point in the game.

Well, except for maybe what Steve Clark did.

CLARK’S PK SAVE

In first half stoppage time, with Crew SC playing well and holding a 2-1 lead, rookie Rodrigo Saravia was whistled for a penalty. RSL’S Joao Plata went to the spot in an attempt to tie the game. He struck the ball to his left, but Crew SC goalkeeper Steve Clark acrobatically got both hands on the shot.

Columbus Dispatch photographer Kyle Robertson tweeted out his terrific photo of the save.

“That was huge,” Berhalter said, before saying it again for emphasis. “That was huge. You can’t really count on things like that, but Steve came up really big. A lot of credit goes to his preparation and his execution on that play, because if they go into halftime 2-2, they feel much better, and in a much better spot.”

“Incredible,” Crew SC midfielder Wil Trapp said, before saying it again for emphasis. “Incredible. When you need a guy to stand up and be counted on, it was excellent. It saved us.”

“It was an energy boost for the whole team,” Ola Kamara said, in a sentence too long to be effectively repeated for emphasis. “It always is, and Steve can do those things.”

“It was a massive save,” added captain Michael Parkhurst, who knows how to use a Crew-centric adjective.  “For us to dominate the first half the way that we did, we could have been up 3-1 or 4-1, then it could be 2-2 heading into halftime, but he makes a huge save.”

Clark was as cryptic as ever about PK sorcery, other than giving his customary credit to assistant coach Pat Onstad and backup goalkeeper Brad Stuver for helping him prepare for the moment.

“I was hearing both Pat and Brad’s words in my head before the penalty, because we had talked about them a lot,” Clark said. “I just went on instinct after that.”

To give you an idea of how prepared Clark was for the moment, check out this bombshell from Parkhurst regarding the pre-PK instructions he received from his goalkeeper.

“He told me before the penalty, ‘The rebound’s coming to that side so be ready for it,’” Parkhurst recalled with an amazed grin. “And then there it was, just sitting there for me. It was incredible.”

After Parkhurst cleared the rebound from its predicted location, the “Steve says NO!” chant rang out not only from the Nordecke, but across the entire stadium. It was special, even if the intended recipient was too dialed in at the moment to notice.

“I didn’t (hear it) at the time, but the fans have been great and I appreciate all of their support,” Clark said.

4-1 IS THE MOST DANGEROUS LEAD

On May 7th, Crew SC held a 4-1 second-half lead at home against Montreal and saw it slip away for a 4-4 draw. On Saturday, Crew SC held a 4-1 second half lead at home against Salt Lake and saw it go from 4-1 to 4-2 to 4-3. At that point, do the players have “Aww crap, not this again?” floating around in their heads?

“I think absolutely the thought comes in your head,” Parkhurst candidly admitted. “(The Montreal game) wasn’t that long ago and it stays with you. I think when they scored the second one, nerves start to kick in a little bit, and then they get third and you’re like, ‘Oh [crap]. We really need to close this out.’ I thought the team responded well after the third goal. We were able to keep the ball a little bit and keep it in their half of the field and slow it down a little bit. It wasn’t the greatest finish, but we were able to do what we needed to do to get three points.”

Now that the Black & Gold have successfully completed immersion therapy for a 4-1 lead, it will hopefully be smooth sailing for the next one.

GOOD WIL WANTING

Crew SC midfielder Wil Trapp has one goal in his MLS career, and it came on September 13, 2014, on a long range worm-burner at Houston. The hometown kid has never scored an MLS goal in front of his friends and family at MAPFRE Stadium. On Saturday night, he had two chances.

“Don’t bring it up,” Trapp said with a laugh. “I’m devastated. Absolutely devastated.”

In the 62nd minute, Trapp had a Federico Higuain shot blasted off of his head on a set piece. The ball caromed over the crossbar.

“The header came at me quick and I needed to knock it down better,” he said

Five minutes later, Trapp found himself streaking down the middle of the field on a counterattack. He received a pass from Ola Kamara, took a touch in the box, and got a weak shot off past Nick Rimando, but the RSL defense easily cleared the ball before it had a chance to possibly trickle across the goal line.

“I don’t find myself up there often,” Trapp noted. “What’s funny is that there was a collective gasp around the stadium and I’m like, ‘Oh, yay! Let’s see what happens!’ I’m just disappointed in myself. I’m going to do a lot of finishing at training.”

Then again, his scoring touch wasn’t a liability given Ola Kamara’s hat trick.

“That’s why we have Ola,” Trapp said. “To score goals so I don’t have to.”

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