Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter
On Crew SC’s recent performances
I think we talked heavily this week about how difficult this game was going to be. We didn’t think this was going to be an easy game. When they came off the result, the win in the semi-final [of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup] against [Los Angeles FC], we knew they had a little bit of momentum. But, we also knew they were be defensive, and be very hard to break down and be fighting for their lives. We knew it was going to be a hard game and it was. Credit to the guys for hanging in there, showing resiliency, sticking to the plan when we changed late in the game, and what we wanted to execute. We got the chance we needed to score, and we did so.
On the tactical adjustments he made during the match
We went with two strikers, we put our wide-attacking mids inside, and then we put our fullbacks wide when we want to get crosses into the box. But, more importantly, if you think about the ability of the wide-attacking midfielders, specifically Eddie [Opoku], to now get behind their line, and Harrison [Afful] give him balls. He was in a wide position where he could either cross it, or play Eddie [Opoku] behind the line, and they [Houston] had a choice; they were going to have to leave the midfield with one of their center-backs. Playing with two forwards, it created a one v. one with their center-backs. So, that was all, that’s how we designed to score a goal, and thankfully we did.
On scoring a goal late in the match
I think, what you do is you make little adjustments, and you hope that could change some effectiveness. The credit goes to the guys for the way they executed, and for the way they hung in there, and kept playing, and Harrison [Afful] gave a great ball for the goal. Good running by Gyasi [Zardes] in the penalty box, and good goal.
On Crew SC’s recent performances and late game-winning goals
To be honest, I thought we looked like the more likely winner, but it was still 0-0. You still have to get the goal, and we did that. I think it certainly builds momentum as we integrate the new players in, when we talk about Justin [Meram], we talk about Patrick Mullins. We integrate them in. You get some guys fit that haven’t played in a while, like Federico [Higuain]. We’re going to play better, that’s for sure, we’re going to create more chances. Today was a workman’s-like performance. We knew it was going to be difficult, we knew it was going to be a grind. We had specific tactical objectives that we needed to stick to because they [Houston] were very good on the counter-attack, and the first half I think we did a good job of that.
On Justin Meram’s performance
When I’m on the sideline watching it, it was a pleasure, because I saw the danger again. I saw the ability to make passes, to take guys on. We’ve missed that a little, and it was really good to see. So, I think it was more than I expected for him; a little bit rusty, coming into the game, and really changing the game. Him and Eddie [Opoku] had a great impact on the game, and Patrick [Mullins].
On adding a healthy Federico Higuain to the team
He’s another one that played longer than we expected. He was competing, and you saw a little bit of rust, but you saw a lotta bit of class. I think he made some great passes, got out of some great situations. To me, it was a very good base to continue on the rest of the season.
On the emotional impact of Justin Meram
I said, “You know why you’re here, you know why we brought you back”, and he knows why he’s an important part of the team, and he showed it. He showed it right away, and it was good to see. Great ovation by the fans, I think it was an emotional night that I think he handled exceptionally well. Not once was he pushing too hard, he took what the game gave him, and to me it was a good performance by him.
On if he felt the impact of the fans at MAPFRE Stadium
I did, and that’s a great thing. I understand everything the fans have been going through, and all I can ask is that they keep coming, they keep supporting us, and keep making this fun, and keep getting behind their team, and they did that tonight, certainly.
On bringing Patrick Mullins into the match
We needed to occupy more than one center-back. They were staying three against one, it was too easy for them. We needed to have them ask questions, and I think introducing Justin [Meram], introducing Patrick. Now, all of a sudden, they weren’t sure if they should step. We had the two forwards occupying their back line, and it created some space for sure.
On Zack Steffen’s clean sheet
He’s a quality goalie, and when you don’t have much to do, it’s great when a guy stays focused and makes the saves he needs to make. The one in particular in the second half, he did a great job on.
Midfielder Wil Trapp
On the defensive nature of the game
We knew before the game that it was going to be a transition game....I thought we did pretty well, we were 1v1 in a couple situations but the center backs came up with some big plays, Johnny [Mensah] making some clearances. I think we did a really, really good job of staying discipline for 90 minutes.
On Crew SC’s recent win streak
I think the first two games in this winning streak we really harped on team camaraderie, team chemistry, and battling till the end. This is another game of having to do it all the way through the 91st minute. So for us that’s just a great step in the right direction of difficult games we gotta grind it out.
On Justin Meram’s return to Crew SC
You see it, you see the dynamism he brings to the team. Weather it’s his change of pace, his little clever tricks and flicks, or passes behind the line. I think his first two passes were goal scoring opportunities. You can see the joy that comes out of him, we’re happy to have him
Midfielder Justin Meram
On how it felt once again playing for the Black & Gold
First of all, I want to thank from the bottom of my heart all of the fans. Leading up to the game during warmups, the tifos, when I subbed in and stepped onto the field, it was emotional for me and my family. So thankful, and words cannot describe the feeling that I have when they cheered and erupted when I stepped on the pitch. Once again, thank you so much to this fan base, because for me, I have grown so much over the years, and you know they have been right there supporting me.
On the emotion of playing in this game
I was nervous for sure, a different kind of nervous as this is my first game since coming back. Honestly, once I got my first couple touches, I will be honest, it all felt pretty natural being back in my element; a lot of the guys I know how to play with and combine with, and we created some dangerous chances early on.
On his immediate impact on the match
Yeah, like I said it was good, I love playing with Pipa [Higuaín]. He is an unbelievable player and he makes everyone better, so you know I was trying to give him a goal.
On his fitness for this match
Yeah, I felt pretty good. It is just something that we will have to test, my fitness. Training is one thing, but with games now we will see where my level is at and now we push it to another level. I thought I was pretty fresh and brought some speed and cleverness, so it was good.
On building chemistry with his new teammates
Honestly, I mean you guys saw the game, transition was pretty seamless. They are both fantastic players, Milton [Valenzuela] is young and I think we just need to grow with each other. With Gyasi [Zardes] I had a couple of passes to him, so you know he makes great runs and it is easy for me when a forward is clever and knows how to play between the lines so overall it is good, and we just need to build and finish our chances.
On finishing off dramatic games recently
Just knowing that we are going to be in it for 90 minutes. This season our defense has been rock-solid. Our defense has been fantastic, and we just need to put away our chances early and give us a comfortable lead, we do not want to play on the edge all of the time.