Columbus Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter
On his team’s response in the first half
I think, first of all, give Toronto [FC] credit. They came in here and they made it tough for us, especially in the first 25 minutes of the game. As soon as we made an adjustment, the ball circulation was much better and it got us back into the game. That belief, that now we can start moving the ball around and now we can start hurting them, I think started creeping in to the guys and it was overall a great collective effort because that was a difficult game.
On whether these were the types of games that his team experienced last year
I think so. I don’t think we responded to much at all last year, to be honest, and it was these types of games and it was other games. I think we struggled to find our way consistently last year. We never really got that moment that the guys got that belief late in the game, you know we’re going to be ok, we’re going to be fine. You can see it this year that the guys are starting to believe that they can go down late in games, no problem, they just keep grinding and credit to them.
On the effect of his team’s young players
It’s everything. Without those guys contributing, our team wouldn’t be as good. There is no question the way that Zack [Steffen] has played, the way Alex [Crognale] has played, Niko [Hansen] got his number called today and stepped up and played really well. So these guys have made the difference.
On Niko Hansen’s first start
That’s exactly what it was. It was a classic case of a guy who forces his way into the lineup by performing in games when he gets the opportunity and performing in training. We saw enough to say it was his time.
On Justin Meram’s performance
Listen, Justin [Meram] is a guy that has a huge upside and I don’t think he’s finished growing. To me, I think he lacked a little bit of consistency today in the game. He can hurt teams, but to me I don’t think it was a complete game by him. He has better, he has an unbelievable skill set and then you couple that with his mentality and his work rate and his physicality and he’s a special player.
On Zack Steffen’s performance
That got us back into it because he made a big save at a crucial time and then we found our way in the game and it was big. I think without that, we would have been looking at a deficit that would have been tough to overcome.
On Alex Crognale’s season so far
Yeah. So let’s clarify that though, right? DP [Designated Player] got injured, he wasn’t on the bench. Alex [Crognale] has been great. I think his work rate, his understanding of the game, his competitive nature, his leadership, all of those things have been outstanding. Him, together with Nico Naess, with Jonathan [Mensah], with Lalas [Abubakar], with Josh Williams, it’s a centerback group that we’re comfortable with at the moment.
On his team’s ability to close out games
It’s step by step, it’s a work in progress. You know, I think today we could have been even sharper in that, but it’s still the belief is there. And that’s the important thing because it’s not always going to be perfect. We mentioned that in other games. The mindset and the mentality is certainly there and that’s a lot to build from.
On Federico Higuain’s performance
Well I think it’s clear to see how much we missed Pipa [Federico Higuain] last week and that’s a credit to Federico [Higuain]. He’s an outstanding player. His ability to tie people together and to control the game is excellent. He’s so calm on the ball. He’s a guy that amidst chaos, he makes everything look calm and you love players like that.
On Wil Trapp’s performance
I think it’s a great hundredth game. Wil [Trapp] had an excellent performance, I thought. His tenacity to make plays, to make it difficult on the opponent was certainly there and then on the ball, nice and controlled. It was a special hundredth game. Again, Toronto [FC] is a good opponent, it was a very difficult game and it’s good to get the win.
On his team’s confidence
I think so. There’s going to be times in the season where things don’t go our way and we’ve been working on how respond to that. There’s going to be times in games, there’s going to be times in the season, but will we be a different team? That’s the question and the answer is no, so it’s all what’s between your ears and it’s working hard on that.
On when he noticed the difference between this season and the previous season
I think the Brazil trip was a good example of that, of how the training sessions they were extremely focused, the video sessions they were extremely focused, the tactical sessions they were extremely focused and then off the field they were enjoying each other. When you have that combination, it leads to great camaraderie on the field and that helps get great results.
On Justin Meram’s recognition in MLS
I think people are taking notice of him, it’s hard not to with what he’s been doing. When I talk to coaches, they can’t speak highly enough about him. So I think he’ll start to get more recognition from the public because he’s an outstanding player.
Forward Ola Kamara
On his team’s confidence
We have so much to improve in our game and I think that motivates us. We know we can play better but we sacrifice for each other and we are running for each other and fighting.
On his team’s younger players
I think they’re doing very well. Alex [Crognale] and Zack [Steffen] handled them very well today. Everybody is working very hard. We have Justin [Meram] as well who is on fire right now. So we are playing well.
On his goal
I saw the movement from Niko [Hansen] and it’s about my positioning and gambling a little bit and that ball can come through. It’s a small gamble but I know if I get it that’s a goal.
On his team’s defense and changes from last year
After games like D.C. [United] where we can have a clean sheet, we know that we can shut it down. We have that belief in each other that after 2-1, you know they have great attacking players, we still have that belief that we can shut it down and maybe we can get a third goal as well. Everybody working for each other gives us that belief.
On his team’s change in attitude
We knew we were better this year. Everybody is in better shape and the chemistry was just better this year. But still, that win in D.C. did a lot, and it was a clean sheet and we closed two goals and it was an away win. We gained that confidence and then we wanted the next one and then we keep going. We are creating some momentum and we never did that last year.
Midfielder Justin Meram
On Crew SC’s confidence
We feel really confident at home — we put a lot of energy and a lot of buzz. It’s a great effort by everybody to pull out a tough one because they are a good team and we are hurting pretty bad.
On his thoughts of the first half
Yeah absolutely, especially at home — I believe with Portland [Timbers] we were down earlier and then came back and won — same situation. I just think overall the maturity level with the group is good, it’s high and we believe in ourselves. That’s the biggest thing, believe in ourselves as a group and collectively we can get the job done.
On his thoughts of this season
It’s a mentality thing and I think we knew how poor 2016 was and we knew in ‘17 we wanted to start off high. Especially at home, because it is tough to win on the road. So I think that all the points are at home.
On Crew SC’s second half performances
Overall, I think the mentality to defend for one another. You see how we swarm on the ball when we are just helping out the guy next to you. I think that has been very well this year.