The New York Red Bulls are in Columbus on June 9 to face an in-form Crew. Massive Report’s Patrick Murphy stopped by to give us a little insight into what’s been working for Gregg Berhalter’s squad so far this season.
Once A Metro: Given the off-the-field shenanigans at the club and the big question mark hanging over it as a consequence, I think many would have understood if this had been a lost season for the Crew. But it doesn’t seem to playing out that way at all. What’s going right in Columbus at the moment?
Patrick Murphy: You are correct that the on-field performances have not suffered so far due to the potential move to Austin in the air. Gregg Berhalter has done a great job of keeping the team insolated from all that’s going on outside of the training facility. Of course the players hear about things here and there, but it’s been impressive so far. But given that Berhalter has traditionally had mentally strong teams that take a one-game-at-a-time focus and such, maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising.
On the field, things have obviously gone well. Columbus’ standing in the standings is a bit inflated right now due to the number of games Crew SC has played, but this is certainly the best start under Berhalter. This is the middle of a stretch that will teach us a lot about the Black & Gold, as the team faced Toronto FC last weekend, the Red Bulls on Saturday and Atlanta United on Wednesday. We’ll see how it goes.
OaM: The team lost a heartbreaker in US Open Cup in midweek - bounced after 120 minutes and a shootout that came down to the ‘keepers. Might that result stall the Crew’s impressive momentum in the league?
PM: I don’t think so. The only starter in that game who might start in this one is second-year winger Niko Hansen. The only other player who has started much this year was fellow winger Cristian Martinez, but he’s suspended for Saturday. It was very much a reserve lineup and Berhalter did that intentionally. The group was how it competed with a largely first-choice Fire team, even if it ended in an 11-round penalty kick shootout loss.
Given that the players will change -- and this team has never put much emphasis on the Open Cup -- I think it will be business as usual on Saturday.
OaM: How’s Mike Grella doing?
PM: Great! Mike’s been a perfect fit in Columbus since making the move this offseason. The staff here was very cautious with him early on, letting him get back to 100 percent before putting him back on the field. He made his return off the bench against the San Jose Earthquakes in late April and scored the game-winning goal. Since then, he’s worked his way into a starting role and I expect him to be used that way on Saturday.
One of the cool things about his recovery here is that center back Gaston Sauro was also coming back from a long-term knee injury. They were about at the same spot in their recovery, so were working together throughout the preseason and the start of the year, becoming quick close friends. It’s rather funny to see them walk around together because of the height difference. It’s like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito in Twins.
Harrision Afful-Jonathan Mensah-Lalas Abubakar-Milton Valenzuela
Pedro Santos-Artur-Ricardo Clark-Mike Grella