If history is any indication, expect nothing but a strong finish to the regular season for Columbus Crew SC.
Since Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter’s arrival in 2014, Columbus holds a combined record of 25-12-10 in the final 10 matches of the regular season.
On one hand, it points to a leadership style and system with proven success, while on the other, a player group that understands what the regular-season homestretch entails.
“I think we know it’s a long season every year,” said midfielder Justin Meram, who has been with Crew SC for most of Berhalter’s tenure.
“We know how to rotate guys and we know how to move forward collectively as a group on the field, off the field. When we get into these stretches towards the end of the season, when we get a lot of our guys to be healthy and intuitive into all the games that mean a lot, and guys are really focused and ready to step up to the task; I think that’s what makes us such a strong group is when it comes to playoff time. Everyone’s ready and we know what’s at stake.”
A 34-match regular season is certainly a grind, individually and collectively. Each player and coach bring something to the table but, when the team works as one, the points continue to trend upwards for the Black & Gold.
“I think with this group everybody is trying to do his job, you know, because when given the opportunity you just have to go out there and then exhibit your talent, all you have, and then the coaches will also add theirs,” said midfielder Harrison Afful.
“So that is what we are all doing. We make sure we are going all out as a team, as a group. The individuals, once in a while it comes, but as a team in a whole we just keep fighting.”
Saturday’s match at Montreal represents the first time this season Crew SC has full control of its playoff destiny, as a win or draw at Stade Saputo guarantees a top-six finish.
Taking on a playoff-contending Impact side that is 9-4-2 at home is no small task. However, Columbus’ notable road defense, which ranks tied for first in total goals conceded (19), combined with the Club’s past late-season road history under Berhalter provides comfort going into a potential playoff-clinching match.
Since 2014, Columbus is 8-9-7 on the road in Weeks 25 through 34, while this season, Crew SC has allowed just 49 shots on target in road matches, ranking first amongst the League by 19 shots over the second-place club.
Starting with its match against Montreal on Saturday, two of Columbus’ three remaining regular-season matches take place on the road. Following a meeting at Orlando City on Oct. 21, Columbus will play host to Minnesota United FC on Sunday, Oct. 28 at 4:30 p.m. ET.