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POST-MATCH QUOTES | Columbus Crew SC 2 - 1 Atlanta United | Nov. 8, 2020

Head Coach Caleb Porter

Opening statement

[It was a] great way to close out the regular season. It has been a long road to this point, through a lot of adversity - COVID, injuries, two or three different restarts - it has been a crazy journey. But I couldn’t be more proud of our team, and I thought it was fitting that we had to grind at the end of the game, until the very last second and the very last moment, because that’s what this group is about. They showed hunger [and] they showed resilience again in this game. This is our third game in eight days, our fifth game in sixteen days, and [there were] a lot of tired guys out on that pitch, but they refused to lose today and I’m really proud. The regular season is done, and I told the guys that they need to remember what they did over that regular season, because this is a bottom-line business, and everybody knows that. Everybody talks about that. The bottom line is that based on the games that we’ve had, and the points that we got, this is one of the best seasons in club history. And the way that we ended as well, and the overall league standings, it’s the highest in the last twelve years. So, those are things that no one will remember, but those are things that we should appreciate. We need to make sure that before we - in the next several days - rest and recover and get back to work, we need to take the time and reflect on that and appreciate that. It’s certainly not going to get lost on me - because I’ve been in the trenches with these guys every single day for nine and a half months - and I hope our supporters understand how much these guys gave this year over the last nine and a half months to do what they did, to achieve what they achieved, to finish third in the [Eastern] Conference, and to finish with the points that we got. I hope the supporters really appreciate what these players have done because they deserve that. But also, we’re not going to be remembered for any of it, we’re going to be remembered for what we do in the playoffs, so we’re in it to win it. We’re not happy [just] being in it, we’re in it to win it, and [with] a home game. I can’t wait to get back on the pitch, I can’t wait to improve on some things and I can’t wait to be in that first playoff game at MAPFRE [Stadium].

On Crew SC’s victory on the final day of the regular season

I just always think about how I feel, [and about] the players. I mean, obviously, I love this Club, I came here to do special things. We appreciate the supporters so much. They are so important to what we do. Obviously, our home record this year has a lot to do with them - even though we didn’t always have as many fans as we would like but they certainly helped us. But, the most important thing, the most important thing is the players. I have so much respect for this group, so much admiration. We’ve been in the trenches together through a lot of stuff, a lot of stuff that is difficult and hard. We’re supposed to show up, we’re supposed to get results and that’s our job. But it wasn’t always easy this year with games every two to three days and with COVID going on. You know, these guys aren’t robots, they’re people. I just couldn’t believe today, how much they gave. Especially coming off a really tough loss, the toughest loss of the year to Orlando [City SC], and flying back at 3:00 a.m. and then having three days to go again. It just shows how hungry they are. This team wants to leave a legacy in 2020. [The] 2008 [season], that’s the one everybody has talked about forever and we want to be the next one. That’s our goal, that’s our vision and that’s what we’re going to fight for.

On whether the match against Atlanta United will help prepare Crew SC for the postseason

Yeah, I said that to the guys as well. This will really get us ready. That’s a talented team, Atlanta [United]. That’s a team that has won championships. There are still quite a few guys on that field today [who were on those championship teams]. It’s never easy to beat a recent champion, and as much as maybe they’ve had a year that’s up and down and they fall short in the end, there are still some very, very good players on that team. I thought we easily could have been up three, four-zero. [That] didn’t happen, and it’s probably better in the end, honestly, that we have to grind out a one-goal margin [win] under pressure, heading balls out and digging. Because, oftentimes in the playoffs, that’s what it’s like: it’s usually a one-goal margin. Our mentality was really strong and that will get us ready. [Crew SC is] playing the [New York] Red Bulls, I believe. Those are the little things that we’re going to have to manage: balls in the air, we’re going to have to grind and it’s probably not going to be the most aesthetically pleasing match, but it’s win and advance. It doesn’t matter. Win and advance. What I’m really proud of, though, is that first half - [that’s] the football that we want to play. I’ve been saying it, just give us time. Give us time to get the group back together, give us time to train a little bit and get our cohesiveness and chemistry back. But we looked every bit [like] the team that we looked [like] at the beginning of the year. In that first goal, our passing sequence - that’s a team goal. With obviously, Lucas Zelarayan - a special player - at the end of it showing his quality again for the finish.

Midfielder Lucas Zelarayan

On whether his performance was more like what he thought it would be upon returning from injury

I felt good. It was a hard year for everyone and there were some times where I dealt with things that I wasn’t used to dealing with. But I felt that every time I was able to play, I played well and did well for the team. So, I was happy I was able to go out there and perform well today.

On the importance of winning today given that last year the Club did not reach the playoffs

It was very important. As Caleb mentioned earlier, this is one of best regular seasons that the team has had so we’re proud of that. We need to believe in ourselves. I believe in this team. I think we have been showing this all year and we’re proud of the team that we are. We will be able to continue to fight for as long as we’re in the playoffs.

Forward Gyasi Zardes

On the shift of mentality that has to happen as Crew SC heads into playoffs

Like you said, I’ve been in multiple playoff games. We’ve worked hard throughout this year, and everything we’ve done was to get to this moment: playoffs. In playoffs, you win, you go on [or] you lose, [and] you’re done. It’s a different ballgame. Teams are going to bring their A-game. This season is behind us. Now we focus and we have to shift. It’s going to be tough, but this is the team to do it. Like our coach said, we’re trying to leave a legacy this year, so we have the first game at home and it’s important [that] we take care of business as soon as the whistle blows here. 

On how the regular season has prepared him for the playoffs

As I look back, I remember starting the year off beating NYCFC here, going away playing against Seattle [Sounders FC] and tying that game, and next thing you know, shutting down. I remember all the numerous Zoom calls our team participated in, the sacrifices we’ve made, putting the work in on our own, and collectively. And then, as we go back into the MLS is Back Tournament, I remember being the only team down there getting nine points, and also fighting our way to that knockout game. Then, after MLS is Back, we went on to achieve, what, nine shutouts? We were on fire,and it shows you that hard work and that adversity we’ve been put through. I just feel like, as we look back and prepare for this next step into [the] playoffs, we’ve done a lot this year, but it gives us more motivation to achieve more and accomplish more. So, I’m extremely excited and motivated to take care of business in [the] playoffs. Also, throughout this time as we prepare for playoffs, it’s important that all of our players take the time to get healthy and make sure [that] our bodies are right. But come minute one in the first playoff game, [it’s important] that we take care of business. 

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