SPORTING DIRECTOR AND HEAD COACH GREGG BERHALTER
On the importance of tonight’s result against New York City FC
I think it was an important win. I think we had an excellent week of training – lot of intensity to the training, a lot of speed to the training – and we framed this game for a potential battle for third. We know we still have work to do, but this was an important step. We know it’s a good team. We know it’s a dangerous team. When I look at some of these stats I’m pleased because I think we performed at a high level tonight.
On Justin Meram’s approach to tonight’s performance
I think it was similar. From an execution standpoint, I thought he was excellent. More importantly - from a determination standpoint - that’s what I’m most pleased with. I think he put a lot into this game. I think he had an excellent game. You can see from not only him, but from a lot of the guys – how badly they wanted to win the game.
On conceding the first goal
I think that’s part of soccer, where you have goals that go against the run of play. When I look at that 53rd-minute goal, I think the couple minutes after [that] were a little shaky, but the important thing is that the guys consolidated, and we got back to playing the way we wanted to play – our intentions. I think we looked calm and in control. I think the two goals were right for the type of performance that we were having.
On how Crew SC was able to defeat New York City FC
I think it was the intensity. We have guys that were closing space very quickly. It starts with our top two players. I think our defensive shape was excellent. We had a plan to press them higher up the field, and we know that there was going to be a lot of balls that we had to win duels from. We knew that they would be playing a lot of longer type balls, and I think we did excellent. When you look at the work Gyasi [Zardes] and Federico [Higuain] did to put the team under pressure, it was excellent. And then the rest of the guys following behind them, I think it really gave us an advantage.
On the importance of home matches
Home games are extremely important, and we know that. I think that our attitude last year and this year is that we have to win the home games. Today was a pivotal game. I think important in the fact that we’re playing a rival; we’re playing a team that’s ahead of us in the standings and a chance to close some
On tonight’s team performance
I think that’s how we envision this group being able to play. So, I think as guys get fit, as guys get healthy, we’re able to put this group on the field, and I think it’s a dangerous group. We’re going to need more than just this 11 though, and the guys that have been carrying the weight for the last couple of months, and they’re going to get opportunities again. Overall, I think it was a good team win.
On Federico Higuain’s contribution tonight
That’s him at his best. The plan was to play a lot of balls behind their backline once we received it in the pocket. When you talk about execution, he was all over those balls, did an excellent job. [He is] really difficult to defend when he can process the balls in pockets and turn and face forward. We have runners, and it’s very difficult for defenders to defend that.
On Justin Meram’s impact
When he came back the first day of training, it was like he never left. Justin [Meram] has a strong connection with this club. He has a strong connection with this staff, with the players. It was almost like the prodigal son was returning. We saw glimpses in the Houston game, and now you see his quality and what he can do. He’s a guy that can turn a game. We’re happy to have him back, but for me the most important thing was the effort and determination that he put into this game. He’s not always going to score, but when he performs like that, he’s going to be good.
On what to expect from the team moving forward
I think that was what we were talking about, that’s what we’re envisioning: combination play, runs behind the line, multi-dimensional, not just in pockets, also behind, also stretching, keeping our fullbacks involved at the level we need them involved, and then we become a dangerous team.
On Harrison Afful’s goal
It was great. It was important. To score seven minutes after they score, good answer. He’s another one that worked really hard, was getting into attacks, had some close calls, some dangerous plays, and was rewarded with that goal. So, I think it’s big.
On if there is a benefit to other players besides Gyasi Zardes scoring
I think so. I don’t think it minimizes his contributions to the team, but it certainly gives the rest of the squad a boost. The work that he does is amazing. It really is. He doesn’t stop. He doesn’t stop. He continues to go, and he continues to run. A great for the team performance from Gyasi [Zardes] tonight.
On the upcoming weeks
Well we have guys going on international break, and then we’ve got a tough week coming up with a three-game week. So, it’s going to get hectic. We’re losing some guys in training, but we want to continue to have good weeks of training. This is a vital stretch of the season, and you want to get guys in top form as you move towards the end of the season.
MIDFIELDER JUSTIN MERAM
On scoring his first goal since returning to Crew SC
It felt great just to get the win – to help us through. I think we worked – collectively – extremely hard and for me that was most promising. Just collectively how we controlled the tempo.
On the change in the match after New York City FC’s goal
I don’t think we put our head down. It could have been a foul and the deflection to their guy, it was kind of a fluky goal and we were playing well. We were having chances, so we just stuck to it and Harry [Harrison Afful] had an absolute bomb. He has been fantastic all year. And then we were right back in it and great cross in the corner by Pedro.
On the how he expects to impact matches
Not just the goal, but I think overall the effort. Playing with the guys, creating chances. That’s what I pride myself on doing is being dangerous offensively; defensively, making plays. The goal is the icing on the cake and getting the win against this team is something we wanted, and we got it.
MIDFIELDER PEDRO SANTOS
On the key to creating chances for his teammates
The key is finding the pocket. Gregg [Berhalter] asks us to find the pocket, and I think we did a great job to find the pocket and create space for the guys to run behind, and we know what we need to do to win the game, and we did well.
On what made Crew SC’s attack so dangerous
Because we find a lot of space, and when we find this space we are a dangerous team. Tonight, we proved this, and hopefully, if we score on more of these created opportunities, we will be an even more dangerous team.
On the key’s to maintaining focus
We are going to work like we did the last week, because the playoffs are close, and we want to keep prepared for the playoffs, so we are going to work just like we did the last few weeks.