Crew SC hosted six-time Spanish First Division (La Liga) champion Valencia CF in an international friendly at MAPFRE Stadium Wednesday night. The Black & Gold subdued Valencia’s penetrating offense, but Alvaro Negredo’s goal in the 33rd minute sealed the victory for the Spain-based club.
Crew SC Head Coach and Sporting Director Gregg Berhalter said he was thankful for the opportunity to play a high-quality team like Valencia CF.
“Playing against them, to give our guys that experience, was great at this moment because we’re going to need everyone in the season,” said Berhalter. “You get to evaluate guys and see what they’re up to and check their form. Overall, I think it was a good exercise.”
Goalkeeper Brad Stuver made a statement in his Crew SC debut, making multiple crowd-riling saves, and then attempted a shot off of a Crew SC corner kick at the opposite end for his final act.
“Every big save like that, it’s definitely a confidence booster,” said Stuver. “Getting the first one, definitely was able to build off that, definitely get the confidence up. I had great guys in front of me that made the saves a little bit easier for me.”
Alvaro Negredo tallied five of his eight total shots in the first half. It took him three one-on-one attempts, with one resulting in a one-handed block, to finally get past the seemingly unstoppable Stuver. Berhalter said that he was pleased with Stuver’s performance Wednesday.
“He was good,” said Berhalter. “He saved the one-on-one with [Alvaro] Negredo and had a couple other saves. He was good and it’s nice to see. Obviously, he hasn’t been playing that much and it’s been difficult for him at times, but it’s great to see when a player gets an opportunity that he takes advantage of it.”
The Black & Gold created multiple chances, tallying 11 shots and eight corner kicks. Adam Bedell led the charge with three shots, including a powerful left-footed strike outside of the 18 that soared over the crossbar in stoppage time.
“He’s got good feet,” Berhalter said. “I think that it gets overlooked because he’s so big people expect other things from him, but he certainly has good feet. We don’t shy away from putting him in those positions. What I would say is that we also had a different look when he was up there; moved him a little higher, then moved the wide guys inside a little more, so it gives us that flexibility and I think that was an interesting look that we had.”
Ben Swanson added speed and intensity to the midfield in his Crew SC debut. He said he was nervous, but got more comfortable as the game progressed. The experience was surreal for the 17-year old.
“I’ve never experienced anything like it,” said Swanson. “I just go to school Friday and on Saturday play an academy game, or something like that and afterwards go home. Where today, I have a pro game and I have my pro debut, and then tomorrow I go to school and take a final. So it is a pretty neat experience.”
On the defensive end, Kalen Ryden and Sergio Campbell dawned black and gold for the first time at MAPFRE Stadium. The rookie defenders were solid, shutting down Valencia’s multi-faceted attack and showed promise for future Crew SC appearances.
Coach Berhalter said he was pleased with the performance of his players who don’t see the pitch on a consistent basis.
“What I would say is, by in large, I was pleased with a lot of the guys that haven’t received a lot of game time,” said Berhalter. “Whether that’s Adam Bedell, Romain Gall, Ben Swanson, Chad Barson, Ben Speas, I think that they did a good job. Sergio Campbell and Kalen Ryden. It’s not easy to come into an environment like this and play in a game like that. I think that they did a good job and I’m pleased with the progress they’ve been making.”
Crew SC heads to Orlando City for its next match on Saturday, May 30th.