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Daniel Herlensky / Columbus Crew SC Communications

MATCH NOTES: #HOUvCLB on March 11

LAST MATCH: #CLBvCHI

FINLAY SCORES, CREW SC DRAWS 1-1 AGAINST CHICAGO FIRE

On Saturday, March 4, Columbus Crew SC played its first 2017 Major League Soccer regular season match at home against the Chicago Fire in the Opening Match, presented by MAPFRE Insurance. Ethan Finlay scored in the first half for the Black & Gold, but Chicago drew level in the second half after a second-half goal by David Accam. Five players made their debut for Crew SC this past Saturday, with Zack Steffen, Jonathan Mensah, Jukka Raitala, and Mohammed Abu all starting the match, while midfielder Artur came on as a substitute in the 76th minute.

Crew SC & HOUSTON AT A GLANCE

Columbus Crew SC regular-season record vs. Houston Dynamo: 7-5-10 (11 GF, 14 GA)
Home games: 6-1-4 (19 GF, 9 GA)
Road games: 1-4-6 (10 GF, 14 GA)

LAST THREE REGULAR-SEASON MEETINGS

09/13/2014 CLB 2 at HOU 2 D BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston
03/07/2015 CLB 0 at HOU 1 L BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston
04/23/2016 CLB 1 vs. HOU 0 W MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus

CREW SC FACE HOUSTON IN ONLY MEETING IN 2017

This weekend’s match marks the 22nd all-time regular-season meeting between the two clubs, with the Black & Gold holding a 7-5-10 all-time record against Houston. Crew SC won the lone contest against the Texan side last season by a score of 1-0. The Black & Gold have a record of 1-1-1 in their last three contests against Houston.

LAST REGULAR-SEASON MEETING

On April 23, 2016, Crew SC defeated Houston 1-0 at MAPFRE Stadium after a goal by Kei Kamara, who scored the game-winner via a penalty kick in the 21st minute of the match.

COACHES

Gregg Berhalter (37-35-32, Columbus Crew SC: ‘14 - Present)
vs.
Wilmer Cabrera (1-0-0, Houston Dynamo: ‘17 - Present)

WHERE TO WATCH/LISTEN

Saturday’s 8:30 p.m. ET start is available via regional television on e CW Columbus, Spectrum Sports, and BCSN2. Neil Sika (play-by-play) and Dwight Burgess (analyst) are set to have the call of the match. The CW Columbus broadcast begins at 8:30 p.m. ET. Exclusively on Spectrum Sports and BCSN2, “Crew SC Matchday,” the pre-match show, begins at 8 p.m. ET, with “Crew SC Post-Match” immediately following the action. Locally, the contest is available via the radio in English on CD102.5 FM and in Spanish on La Mega 103.1 FM. The English radio broadcast also is set to stream live on ColumbusCrewSC.com. The Spanish radio calls are also set to be streamed in Spanish on the LaMega1 App and via Tunein Radio as WVKO- FM. The game can be watched internationally via the following: GloboSat, Abu Dhabi Sports, TVN, Le Sports, BeIN Sports Australia, and BeIN Sports Asia.

5 PLAYERS MAKE DEBUTS VS. CHICAGO

Saturday’s match against the Chicago Fire was not only the first match of the season, it was also the first MLS match ever for several Crew SC players. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen, defenders Jonathan Mensah and Jukka Raitala, and midfielders Mohammed Abu and Artur all made their club debut for the Black & Gold on Saturday. Steffen, Mensah, Raitala, and Abu were all in Crew SC’s starting lineup, while Artur came on as a substitute in the second half. Additionally, the match against Chicago marked the first time that Wil Trapp wore the armband since being offcially named captain of the team.

“The result wasn’t what we wanted, but [there was] a lot of positive stuff and we will pick it up from there and look to the next game,”

► Defender, Jonathan Mensah.

13 PLAYERS, 6 DIFFERENT COUNTRIES

Saturday’s match saw 13 Crew SC players take to the field, representing a total of six different countries.

Country....................................Player
Brazil ......................................Artur
Finland....................................Jukka Raitala
Ghana.....................................Mohammed Abu, Harrison Afful, Jonathan Mensah
Iraq .........................................Justin Meram*
Norway....................................Nico Naess, Ola Kamara
United States ..........................Ethan Finlay, Adam Jahn, Justin Meram*, Zack Steffen, Wil
*Meram was born in the United States (Shelby Township, MI) and is a dual citizen of the United States and Iraq. 

CROSSES GALORE

According to Opta, the Black & Gold had 22 crosses from open play on Saturday night, three more than any other team last week and nearly twice as many as Chicago Fire (13). One of those crosses led to Ethan Finlay’s goal.

FINLAY GETS HIS 1ST GOAL OF THE SEASON

Ethan Finlay got his 2017 MLS Season off to a good start on Saturday, as the midfielder tallied his first goal of the year against the Chicago Fire. Finlay’s goal came early in the match, when the Marshfield, Wisconsin, native headed a ball past Jorge Bava in the 17th minute, courtesy of a Justin Meram cross. Finlay had three shots during the match — two of them on target — the most out of any Crew SC player.

“It was a good goal. I think he also set up Justin [Meram] early on in the game with a great cutback pass. He was very active and it’s great. This team needs Ethan Finlay firing on all cylinders, so it’s great to see that,”

►Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach, Gregg Berhalter

ZACK STEFFEN: BREAKOUT STAR

Goalkeeper Zack Steffen was named to Fox Sports’ list of MLS “breakout stars” following his two-save performance against the Chicago Fire. The 21-year-old player was listed at number eight.

MERAM SIGNS CONTRACT EXTENSION

This week, Crew SC announced that midfielder Justin Meram signed a multi-year contract extension with the club. The 28-year-old is the longest tenured player on the club’s current roster and has made 155 appearances (103 starts), putting him in eighth place in all-time appearances for Crew SC. To date, Meram has tallied 24 goals and 27 assists for the Black & Gold and he is one of only eight players to reach 20 career goals and 20 career assists for Crew SC in regular-season action. Meram won the club’s Most Valuable Player Award during the 2016 Major League Soccer season. Last Saturday, he provided the assist — his fifth in as many regular season games — in the 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire.

“It’s definitely an honor to have this extension, but I’m not going to take my foot o the gas – I’m going to strive for bigger and better things,”

►Midfielder, Justin Meram

PASS MASTERS

Crew SC finished the match against Chicago with a total of 545 attempted passes, which tied for second-most in the League. Of those 545 passes, 460 were successful according to Opta, giving the club a 84.4 percent success rate — the highest out of any team in the League. 313 of those passes were executed in the opponent’s half, good enough for the second most in MLS last week. Wil Trapp completed the highest number of passes in the team, with a total of 88.70 percent of Trapp’s 82 passes were successful, giving the Black & Gold captain a success rate of 85.37. Per Opta, the Homegrown Player was third in the League for completed passes and fourth in the league in total passes, putting him ahead of New York City FC midfielder Andrea Pirlo. Over half of Trapp’s passes (42) were attempted in Chicago’s half, the fourth most out of anyone in the League.

ABU, ABUBAKAR, AFFUL & MENSAH ON COVER OF COLUMBUS ALIVE

Crew SC recently had four of its players — Mohammed Abu, Lalas Abubakar, Harrison Afful, and Jonathan Mensah — featured on the March 2 print issue of Columbus Alive. The Ghanaian players were part of the main story of the issue, which focused on the Black & Gold’s international contingent. A quote from Afful on being named the MLS ambassador to Ghana:

“Even though I had a scholarship through soccer, not everybody will get that opportunity. ... I want to help the young ones out there who are the future, who are the talent. I will always be available for them.”

►Defender, Harrison Afful

DISPATCH: KAMARA MORE COMFORTABLE THIS SEASON

The Columbus Dispatch’s Andrew Erickson profiled Crew SC forward Ola Kamara this week, focusing on his second season with the club. A quote from Kamara on having known his teammates for a full season now and being able to spend preseason with them, unlike last year:

“I think it’s positive, the team knows how I play and I know how they play, so the chemistry is probably better from the beginning now.”

►Forward, Ola Kamara

Additionally, the Norwegian forward shared his thoughts on building on last year’s campaign in which he scored 16 goals:

“If I get 16 goals this year, but we get to the playoffs and we win more games, that will be positive.”

►Forward, Ola Kamara

THOUGHTS ON THE MATCH AGAINST CHICAGO

On the players making their debut for Crew SC:

“I think they did well, all of them. All of them did well. When I think about Jukka [Raitala], I think he was solid. Jonathan [Mensah] was solid. Mohammed [Abu] I thought was pretty good. I thought Artur came in and was okay. And then Zack [Steffen] did well.”

►Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach, Gregg Berhalter

On Crew SC’s offensive chances

“I think it was good, but I think we can create more. I really do, but I think it was pretty good. As we get into sync, we will start creating more chances. We’ll analyze how we could have been more e ective and then look at that.”

►Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach, Gregg Berhalter

On the fans’ support

“The fans were fantastic today and one thing that I personally asked, was that they were loud and I think they brought it today. So that was good to see.”

► Defender, Jonathan Mensah

On the atmosphere at MAPFRE Stadium

“It was good. This is my first time and I really liked it. I hope it’s going to continue like that.“

► Defender, Jonathan Mensah

On his MLS debut

“It wasn’t bad. I did what I could do and I hope I improve game after game."

► Defender, Jonathan Mensah

THOUGHTS ON MATCH AGAINST HOUSTON

On Houston Dynamo as a team

“The [Houston Dynamo] have speed up top, [they’re] a good counter-attacking team, they have strength in the middle with Ricardo Clark, Alex, and Eric Alexander who I think are all three good players and in the backline they have experience. So overall, I think it’s a good group. Having said that, I think there will be opportunities for us, we just have to be smart.”

►Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach, Gregg Berhalter

On Houston Dynamo as a team

“The [Houston Dynamo] are very, very good at attacking. Last weekend our defensive [four] were very good so we really have to be good defensively and try to create chances again.”

►Midfielder, Mohammed Abu

On dealing with the weather in Houston

“I think we’re ready for it. Brazil helped us a lot. I think we’re one of the most fit teams in the league, so I think that will help us. It will definitely be pretty hot [compared] to what we’ve been playing in right now - it’s been pretty cold and raining - so I think it will be agood test for us.”

►Defender, Connor Maloney

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