SPORTING DIRECTOR AND HEAD COACH GREGG BERHALTER
I want to just start by congratulating Jon Busch on a great career and it was a great honor to be able to be a part of that ceremony at halftime. When a guy pays 21 years and decides to make this his final club, we’re proud as a club. So, congratulations to Jon and his family – a lot of hard work and dedication over the course of his career.
On if Crew SC’s confidence has changed this week
I would say yes. When you lose three games in a row your confidence goes down as hard as you try to message to the guys to keep their heads up and stay positive. I think it’s easy to lose confidence, and step-by-step we wanted to slowly bring this group back to a place where they’re confident because they’re good players. The New England game was a good starting point, and as we kept going through these weeks, the group is looking confident. This was a good performance tonight. I think top-to-bottom... a couple opportunities for Chicago, but overall a very strong performance by our group.
On Pedro Santos’ health
He had some hamstring tightness. We’re going to have to get it checked. Obviously, it’s not ideal to substitute a guy in the first minute of the game, or the first couple of minutes into the game, and we’re going to have to get him checked and see what the diagnosis is.
On Mike Grella’s extended minutes
I think the medical team has done a great job of putting Mike [Grella] in a position to be successful. I think when you look at him, and his skill set, and his work rate, he does a great job of pacing himself, but also giving the high-intensity that we need. I think overall, it was a bit of a surprise how long he went, but he’s been around the block. He knows what this was about.
On finishing out the week.
I think that you add up the travel, the midweek game, the training – closing off the week is always very difficult. It takes a tremendous amount of concentration and discipline, and we knew we were rotating the team again. I think that it’s a good opponent; we never thought that it was going to be an easy opponent. So I think that all of those things coupled together made it for a difficult challenge tonight.
On if team grew and learned this week
We did. We did. When I look at what this group is made of, you think about Wednesday – us having the youngest team in club history, and tonight we had one of the older teams in club history. It just shows that everyone can step up. Everyone can play a part. I think tonight was a good example of veteran leadership, of guys having performances that help the team when a game. I think the whole week was a successful week.
On Gyasi Zardes’ confidence this week
I feel like you’ve asked me that question three times this year already. Gyasi [Zardes] is a guy that… he’s the only field player that’s started all three games this week. I had a talk with him yesterday and I said, “Listen, there is a lot on your shoulders, but you’ve got this. You can do it. You have the ability. You take great care of yourself. You’re a competitor. These weeks are made for you.” I think he responded in a really positive way. I think he grew as this week went, but tonight’s performance was a culmination of a very strong week for Gyasi, and a real good performance to help the team be successful.
On Crew SC’s high energy throughout the match
That was part of the game plan; just really trying to use our fitness as a strength. This is a very fit team and we wanted to take advantage of that. We knew that if we could keep running, we knew we would get to a point where that would be too much, and I think we got to that point tonight.
On earning three consecutive shutouts this week
I think that the group has gotten to a place where they understand defending is about 11 guys, and that’s the most important thing. It’s not about the back four and the goalkeeper. It’s not about the midfielders added in. It’s all 11 players. When we defend as a group, we do a great job, and we make it very difficult for the opponent. We want to keep the ball out of the middle of the field. We want the ball going wide. We want to press together as a unit. We want to be compact as a team. When we do that, it’s very difficult to create goal-scoring opportunities against us. Now that you say that, three shutouts in a week, I’m proud of the guys. I didn’t – you don’t expect that going into a week. And to win games, you’re not so sure about if you’re going to let up a goal or not, but I think it shows a lot how this group has improved, but we’re going to keep going and keep trying to get even better.
On Niko Hansen’s assist
I thought it was great. I thought it was a great play by Niko [Hansen]. He has that ability, and for us it’s keeping it simple for him and playing to his strengths. I think when he does that, he’s an excellent player. That play was pure determination; the willingness to outrun an opponent and keep going. I’m really proud of him for the way he came on. It wasn’t easy to come on early in the game like that, but he did a good job all things considered.
On how good Crew SC is
I don’t know. I don’t think that’s an important question. I think for us it’s ‘Can we keep getting better?’ That’s the important question. ‘Can we keep improving?’ If we can keep improving, I think we’ll be a good team, but our job is to keep getting better individually and collectively.
On Ricardo Clark as a player
Ricardo [Clark] is a competitor. It’s pretty special when he gets out on the field and competes. I think when you look at the Seattle game and this game, he lays everything out there. He gives us this tenacity and this experience that the group needs. I think tonight he was excellent. I thought all week he played a good game- had a good week. Excuse me.
On Zack Steffen’s performance
I mean listen, it’s just trying to pick out the right pass. If he’s trying to do that we have no problem. I think the one particular play when he kicked it out of bounds, he was trying to find Josh Williams, that was the pass to make. He just didn’t execute it. So, he’s fine.
FORWARD GYASI ZARDES
On staying in rhythm despite the quick turnaround
I did feel in rhythm. Like I said before, it’s nice being healthy, but I like the short games because if the team is in rhythm, then it’s a great benefit for us. We are a really fit team, so if other teams have played three games in eight days, then it’s hard on them as well and great for us.
On Niko Hansen’s run to set up Gyasi’s first goal
[Niko Hansen] got past the first guy, then he kept running, so I was just like “Oh, I’ve got to get in the box.” I was hanging out for a little bit, but once I saw [Niko Hansen] beat those guys and keep running, I just thought “Get to the box, get to the box!”
On being more comfortable with the system
I love this system. I’m constantly progressing each and every single week, and I’m constantly listening to the coaches. They are masterminds and I’m just trying to become a better player.
On leading the Golden Boot race
I’m not surprised because the preseason showed it. [Columbus Crew SC] love to play their forwards, love to get their forwards numerous opportunities, so the opportunities are there and it’s all because of the team.
On Mike Grella’s dummy to set up Gyasi’s second goal
It was amazing! [Mike Grella] is such a smart player. He is a veteran and he knows players are behind him. He saw me before I even saw him, so it shows you what type of player Mike Grella is.
On the depth of Crew SC
It is incredible. Like you said, Niko [Hansen] had to get off the bench and get ready to go right away, and he stepped in and played an amazing game. But like I said before, that has been a key element to this team’s success. Players stepping up when their name is called.
GOALKEEPER ZACK STEFFEN
On Crew SC’s defense over the past three matches
For sure, I am happy with the three shutouts and the way that we defended for these three games.
On Gyasi Zardes’ performance
Whenever we do shooting it is impossible to save it. [Gyasi Zardes] has a killer finish and he is a hard worker that never wants to stop. He is always down to do extra shooting and extra crossing. He always wants to get better and that’s what the team needs.
On Gyasi Zardes’ ability to produce goals
We put [Gyasi Zardes] in good positions and he is a fantastic forward that does a good job.
On learning about Crew SC during this past three-match stretch
It was a great week; it was a really hard week. We learned from the work we put in and the performances that we put in. We are all really happy and we have got to keep going with a tough opponent next weekend.