Justin Meram vs. CHI
Trevor Ruszkowski / USA Today

MAPFRE Stadium produces milestones galore for CrewSC

COLUMBUSOla Kamara’s 50th appearance as a member of Columbus Crew SC yielded two groundbreaking moments on Saturday night in Columbus.

The first came in the 88th minute of the match, when Kamara utilized misdirection and deposited his subsequent penalty kick — after being fouled by Chicago goalkeeper Matt Lampson — to clinch a 3-1 victory over one of the top teams in Major League Soccer.

The second moment involved a rabid Nordecke fan section, and of course, Kamara with a bullhorn and an infectious level of excitement that reverberated through the entire stadium.

Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter praised Kamara’s performance in his first 50 appearances following the match and broke down the play that lead to Kamara being fouled.

“I think Ola is a very clever player and his movement off the ball is exceptional,” Berhalter said. “If you saw his movement tonight when Cristian [Martinez] passed it to him, it was great. The defense shifted to the left and he opened up on the right and was able to get the ball. It’s great for him to have played 50 games and score at the rate that he has and it’s an accomplishment.”

Kamara leads the Black & Gold in scoring in 2017 with 12 goals and the forward has scored at a rapid pace for more than just this season. Since the beginning of the 2016 MLS season, Kamara has recorded 28 goals with only three other players scoring more than the Norwegian forward in that timespan: David Villa (40), Bradley Wright-Phillips (37) and Sebastian Giovinco (28).

History was seen earlier in the match when midfielder Justin Meram netted the game-winning goal off an assist by Waylon Francis. The goal was the 1,000th in the history of Crew SC.

Berhalter lent his thoughts to the meaning of 1,000 goals in club history.

“It’s great,” Berhalter said. “You take for granted what Columbus Crew SC means to this league and its history. To get the 1,000th goal is special and this is a special club. The fans have been there since day one and it’s nice to get that 1,000th goal.”

The third and final milestone seen on Saturday evening belonged to veteran Crew SC defender Josh Williams. The Ohio-native was proud to reach the number and is already excited about the prospect of reaching the century mark.

“As a kid who grew up watching Crew SC, these milestones are pretty cool,” Williams said. “One hundred is probably the bench mark that everybody celebrates more, but 75, I’m on my way there. I’m extremely proud just to be a part of this organization and 75 starts to me, means a lot.”

Not only did Williams record his 75th start, but he also played all 90 minutes and manned a Crew SC back line that stifled two dangerous Chicago attackers in David Accam and Nemanja Nikolic, who own 28 goals combined this season for the Fire.

“Those guys are very good players,” Williams said. “I was happy for the guys I was battling with on the team. From Ola to Zack [Steffen] I feel like everyone was all in and we battled from start to finish. At the end of the day, if you can keep those guys silenced for the most part you did your job, and that’s all we can ask.”

Berhalter detailed a challenge laid out for Williams by the coaching staff before the match that related to the veteran playing in the middle of the back line alongside two of Crew SC’s younger defenders.

“We gave Josh a challenge this week and we said, ‘You’re going to have to be vocal and you’re going to have to be leading them,’” Berhalter said. “And he did a great job. Together with him, Lalas [Abubakar] and Jonathan [Mensah] I think the center backs played strong tonight.”

Columbus Crew SC will travel south next to face Orlando City SC on Saturday, August 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET.

The Black & Gold will return home on Wednesday, August 23 to kick off a three-game homestand when they face the LA Galaxy in what will be a 7:30 p.m. ET start at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus.