SPORTING DIRECTOR AND HEAD COACH GREGG BERHALTER
On the club’s aggressiveness
I think it was more of a willingness to get inside their penalty box. When you see the movement of our guys, the number of guys we had in their penalty box was excellent. We emphasized that this week in training, so it was good to see that pay off, and good to see guys make those extra efforts to get inside the penalty box.
On closing matches
That’s always nice. You’d rather not give up a goal than give one up. I think it’s focus, I think it’s us having the ball. When you look at possession, we still maintained an advantage in possession in the second half. We were still able to create enough chances in the second half. Overall, I think it’s good. When you’re up 3-1, at minimum you want to end 3-1 or score more goals and we did that.
On control after going up 3-1
That was a big difference. Big difference. I think the ability to understand what the game was then about, I think getting in good defensive shape and also not trying to score on every single attack. Advancing up the field, and then keeping possession up the field was important. We’re learning. That was an important lesson we learned against Montreal, and it was good to see the guys understand that in this game.
On midfielders Artur and Ricardo Clark
One of the emphasis with their performance was we wanted them winning balls in the midfield, and I think both of them did an excellent job of that. They really made it difficult on the opponent in central midfield. We knew it was going to look a little bit different without Wil [Trapp]. I think the comfort level of Clark to step in and play the number 6 perhaps wasn’t there. We had Mohammed [Abu] as an option, but in the end we went with Clark because he’s been working really hard and he’s had a really good preseason. It was a really difficult choice, but in the end we opted for that presence in midfield.
On Pedro Santos
I think it’s important for him to score. Both him and Cristian [Martinez]. It’s important when they produce offensively. Santos is such a smart player, so good offensively. It’s good to see his hard work pay off with a goal. I think he had an excellent game both defensively and offensively.
On early-season progress
I think so. Every game is unique, every game has it’s different challenges. I think we’ve been navigating through it pretty well so far. All we do during the week is prepare for our opponent. We try to improve on our game, and we stay focused on one game at a time. It’s no different now. We just happened to be undefeated, but the focus is still on the next opponent.
On Crew SC’s threat
It’s important. We talked about set pieces being a key to this game. I thought we were excellent with offensive set pieces today. There were a number of very close opportunities that we generated from set pieces. Federico [Higuain] and Santos did an excellent job with their services, and the guys were attacking the ball. They were really getting after it. So that was good. What I touched on early is we wanted to have a better presence in the penalty box. We wanted to have numbers in the penalty box. If that means you’re left back, so be it. On that goal that Milton [Valenzuela] scored, it was a great desire to get inside the box and put pressure on the opponent. On that third goal, same thing with Santos. So I’m happy with that.
On defensive pressure
If you’re talking about from our defensive structure, we work on that all the time; taking a middle-block press to a high-block press. So we want to have a nice, controlled shape, and on certain cues that the opponent does, we want to move into a high press. I think that was effective at times today. I think D.C. is a much improved team. I think they’re a good team. They’ve shown the ability to play through some more pressure than in the past, but I think we did a good job of moving from the middle block to the high block.
On Cristian Martinez
With him it’s about attitude. When he’s aggressive, he’s very difficult to play against. He’s very quick, he’s very strong, good change in direction, and he was able to show up in spots that really hurt the opponent. Especially when he’s coming inside. They have to decide whether their full back is going to step to him or if the central midfielder is going to slide, but we occupied the central midfield with other players so he found the space he needed, and when he got the ball he was really aggressive.
On three new scorers
I didn’t even know that [Gyasi Zardes and Federico Higuain] were our only two goal scorers. The way we play, we don’t care who scores. We just want the ball in the back of the net. Every time the ball hits the back of the net, it’s a good feeling that we have. The guys work hard to generate goal-scoring opportunities. So whoever scores, we’ll take it.
On early D.C. pressure
That’s a good question and the answer to that would be a couple of things. The first thing is that you have to understand that they have all week to prepare. A lot of teams do this, they figure out a strategy to press us. They know how we build up. We’ll give some variations, but they know we want to play with our goalie, and they know we want to move the ball around the back to break lines and advance the attack. So they’ve been practicing, and you can see that. You can see that they’re very effective, they had a lot of energy in it. When teams do that, in general, it’s difficult to break their press. So we knew that it was going to be challenging. I think what happened is, as you saw the game go on, they got fatigued. If you’re going to invest a lot of energy into pressing, it’s going to hurt you one way or another. So I think that they got fatigued, and we were able to open up space, and as that half went on you saw some tired legs, and you saw spaces starting to open up. We just had to be patient.
On Lalas Abubakar getting subbed at halftime
We were concerned that the yellow [card] would turn to a yellow-red in that second half so we pulled him.
On Jon Kempin
I thought he was good. I thought he was excellent. He did everything we asked him to do in this game. For him, he’s going to gain confidence with this performance. I thought he commanded his penalty box well. The goal, he couldn’t have done anything about. In general, he had a good game. We’re pleased with his performance.
On Federico Higuain joining the 50-50 club.
I told the guys after the game that this is no small thing that he’s accomplished. 50 goals and 50 assists in this league is a great accomplishment. I can’t say enough positive things about his performance and his contributions to what we do and what we’ve been doing over the years. I think this is a great honor. I think he should enjoy this, and congratulations to him.
Goalkeeper Jon Kempin
On his command over the course of the match
I felt good going into it. Obviously, it took a little bit to get into the game, first couple passes were rushed a little bit. Took a while to get into the game, once I got into the game it was good. Felt comfortable.
On getting the win
Every game we want to win, especially here at home. Would have been nice to get a shutout as well. It was a good finish. We want to win every game.
On gaining personal confidence
That was my first [full] 90’ of the year, it’s good to be back in [goal] from last year. Zach [Steffen] just texted me and said Congrats. It’s good to finally get a game as a Columbus [Crew SC] under my belt.
On the teams control in the second half
We had a game plan and we stuck to it. Like I said earlier, we could have done better. We aren’t satisfied with that. All the guys were locked in and executed the game plan well. We got out of there with three points.
Midfielder Federico Higuaín
On joining the 50 goals 50 assists club
I’m happy. I’m proud to be a part of this team for the last few years. I’m a hard worker but nothing is possible without my teammates, staff and coach. And the support that they gave me and are giving me. So let me tell them a big thank you. As I always said. We are here to learn; we are here to improve. We are looking forward to the next game.
On Ricardo Clark’s goal
Ricardo is a very important player for us. He gives us experience. He is a warrior in the middle. We are happy for him because we miss an important piece in our system like Will [Trapp]. And I think he did very well so I am happy for Ricardo [Clark] and happy for Jon [Kempin].
On playing with a second half lead
I think we improved a lot in the second half. We were talking here in the locker room that we have to be a better team the second half because that is in my opinion, when games can change. Especially in the last 15 to 20 minutes. I think we did a good job. We improved that phase of our game. And again, looking forward.
On pushing for goals while up in the second half
We are an offensive team. We like to score goals. But at the same time we are not idiots. We have to defend our goal. And I think that was the difference in this game.
Midfielder Pedro Santos
On being able to break down D.C.’s defense
We practiced it all week, we know when we switch the ball to both sides we can find spaces in the middle to attack in.
On the difference between playing with the lead in this game versus playing with the lead against Montreal
The difference in this game was today we felt we could control all parts of the game
On finally finishing his first goal
I have had opportunities, I don’t know why I missed them, but today I finished one.