In Round of 16, Crew counting on another unified performance in different type of test

Look at the second-half of Columbus Crew SC’s match against Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC and that is exactly the type of soccer head coach Caleb Porter wants to see out of the group come Tuesday against Atlanta United FC in a rematch of March 30’s Rain Game.

Tied nil-nil at the halfway point, the Crew’s second-half adjustments came to fruition as the relationship between patience and aggressiveness leaned towards the latter in final 45 minutes.

“Sometimes it takes time to break a team down and pick the lock. I thought in the first half, we weren’t moving the ball quick enough and I didn’t think we were breaking lines in our positioning at times,” Porter said.

“But the great thing is the adjustments at halftime carried into the second half,” Porter continued. “I think the biggest thing is you saw a more aggressive mentality. The guys showed a lot of hunger and patience. That’s the key.”

In the first 15 minutes of the first half, 28 percent of the game’s possession took place in the Crew’s offensive third. Compared the first 15 minutes of the second half, which featured 42 percent possession in the Crew’s offensive third, there stood an aggressive mentality with a load of front-half control which eventually led to David Accam’s 55th-minute goal from Pedro Santos.

Accam was the breakthrough, and after all, his production ability is the reason Crew SC signed him. But even more so, everyone undoubtedly played their role and that will be a big point of emphasis throughout the upcoming stretch.

“I thought there was a good energy and chemistry in the match,” Porter said. “It's great to see that next group of guys step up and be leaders and show that they can get the job done, and also take some ownership in the season and make a statement to everyone that we do have good depth and that they're capable getting the win for us when some of the key guys are gone.”

In the number 10 role, Santos showed patience as he gets used to shifting from a winger role, while Robinho proved more decisive along the flanks in the second half. Meanwhile, the backline seemed to not lose a duel all evening while Artur and David Guzman played as cleanly as you could ask for, with Guzman often dropping back among the backs and leading the transition while Artur garnered a game-high 14 possessions-gained.

All in all, everyone played their role, whether it was Patrick Mullins earning the penalty kick, Harrison Afful coming back for a solid 45 minutes, or substitutions coming on and providing energetic hold-up play.

"I said it right after and I'll say it again," Mullins emphasized, "I think our consistent performances and individual quality, and contributing your role - I thought - I was at a very high level on the day.

"When you get a good solid showing out of everyone, from I thought all 11 guys that stepped on the field, and then to the subs as well, you're probably going to get a good result at the end of the day and be proud of the performance you put in," Mullins said.

Still, for Porter and the rest of the Crew, there’s more to be had.

“I still want to see more of that killer instinct.”

Kickoff on Tuesday is slated for 7 p.m. ET at MAPFRE Stadium. Supporters can exclusively stream the match on ESPN+.

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