Caleb Porter said after Wednesday's result in Cincinnati that it would take something extra from each and every person on the team – regardless if you were a player or coach – to snap out of the team's recent funk, having gone winless in their previous four matches prior to Sunday.
After 90 minutes back at MAPFRE Stadium against a likely playoff team in New York City FC, the Black & Gold supporters witnessed that complete team effort Porter alluded to, which included Artur's first career regular-season goal, Pedro Santos's fourth goal in the last five home games, and Gyasi Zardes securing his 11th goal in just 17 starts as he remains one goal back of co-leading the MLS Golden Boot race.
Point being, that all-in mentality came through on Sunday, and as much as the results show that in the box score, it all started behind closed doors, Porter explained.
"As I’ve said, we had a bad week, two bad results. The guys knew it, I knew it. I needed to be better, they needed to be better, and the last three days were really long days for my staff and for the guys."
Porter continued: "We’re competitors, we’re fighters, we have pride in what we do, we don’t like losing and we don’t like being second-best, as simple as that sounds. But we didn’t – like a lot of teams do in this situation – we didn’t point fingers, we didn’t make excuses, we just got to work and we looked at ourselves. I looked at myself, I looked at how I can be better. The guys looked at themselves and admitted that they can be better, and that’s a true culture."
One of the first pieces of evidence came just past the 25th-minute mark. Though Artur received a fortuitous deflection, the goal started with Zardes's willingness to force an ineffective clearance inside the opponent's six-yard box, and from there, the Brazilian took care of the rest.
Within the first 30 minutes, the Crew fired off six shots, including four on frame, as NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson eventually ended the game with six saves to tie his third-highest mark of the season.
"That was one of our best – I think certainly the first 30 minutes – [performances] of the year," Porter said. "We were all over them and we should’ve scored two or three goals in that first half. We were aggressive, the guys were organized defensively and they executed it [the game plan] to a T."
Just like the late great Tom Petty, the Crew refused to back down, and from there Santos got on the scoreboard for the sixth time in 2020 just under five minutes after the start of the second half.
Again, it was a beautiful set-up that started with a quick one-on-one move from Derrick Etienne Jr. to open up the passing lane from the right flank.
From there, Etienne Jr. put it where only Santos could connect as the Portuguese winger tucked it home on the first-touch.
Sunday marked Etienne Jr.'s fifth start of the year, as the 23-year-old tallied his second assist of the season. Using Etienne Jr. as an example, his performance fell right in line with Porter's post-match sentiment about doing your bit.
"We had good performances across the board with some very good players out," Porter said.
"Again, not going into it at all, we had a couple of last-minute changes to the lineup, different things we had to deal with for the last two weeks. But we, again, will never make excuses, we’re just going to figure it out. We’re going to find a way to win. I thought the guys were great today in that regard."
Then, just as New York halved the deficit in the 55th minute following Valentin Castellanos's goal, the Crew did well to maintain over 60-percent of the possession in the final 45 minutes overall and limit NYC to just one shot on target following Castellanos's goal.
In the end, Zardes following up his own rebound on his late penalty kick was, yes, natural, but also emblematic of the resolve the team showed despite 1) playing in a quick turnaround, 2) facing a playoff-caliber opponent, and 3) dealing with the hangover effects a four-match winless streak tend to sow.
Up next, Columbus heads to the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, Oct. 24 for an 8 p.m. ET kickoff.