By DAN KARELL
How does Columbus Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter get a performance like he did out of Bernardo Anor this week? Give him free rein to take chances.
“That’s what the game is about,” Anor told SBI on Saturday. “We just have to try to shoot from everywhere and hope for something good to happen and that’s exactly what happened today.”
The 25-year-old Venezuelan midfielder scored both goals in the Crew’s 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union, including a screamer from 35 yards out to the delight of the home crowd. Following the match, Anor credited the goals to the coaching staff and a new-found confidence that the team is playing with under Berhalter.
“I think it takes confidence (to play Berhalter’s style) and that’s what you see from all the guys on the field,” Anor said. “Building off that confidence is going to get us where we want to be and trying things like that is going to create chances for the team and for ourselves.”
Anor was named SBI’s MLS Player of the Week for his performance against the Union.
Here are some more notes on the Crew:
PARKHURST AND GONZALEZ AGAIN STRONG IN DEFENSE
While Anor was receiving the media’s plaudits, one can argue that Michael Parkhurst and Giancarlo Gonzalez were the Crew’s most valuable players.
On multiple occasions after Crew turnovers in midfield, Parkhurst and Gonzalez were faced with one-on-one duals with Union players, including in tight spaces in the penalty area. And on all but one occasion, Parkhurst and Gonzalez were able to either make a last-ditch tackle, block a shot, or force their opponents to take a lower percentage shot.
The center back pair’s hard work during the game was praised by Berhalter, who admitted that the team would need to address the issue of placing so much pressure on their defenders in the coming weeks.
“We put them in some very uncomfortable positions today, and to be fair we’ve been doing that all preseason, and they just keep dealing with it,” Berhalter told SBI. “We’re going to have to address it a little bit but they do a good job at covering up for the mistakes.”
CREW SET EARLY-SEASON RECORD
Saturday’s win in front of a crowd of 17,517 wasn’t just an important victory against an Eastern Conference opponent.
The win gave the franchise their first ever 2-0-0 start to the season, which puts the team in second place in the conference. The significance of the early-season start was not lost on the players or head coach.
“It’s the first time in club history that we won the first two games of the season so that’s a huge thing for us,” Crew midfielder Wil Trapp said. “We came out and battled and stuck together as a team.”
ODURO MAKES SEASON DEBUT OFF THE BENCH
With Dominic Oduro, the Crew’s leading goal-scorer last season, available for selection, Berhalter chose to go with the same starting lineup that found success in Week 1.
Berhalter brought Oduro on for his season debut in the 66th minute, replacing forward Jairo Arrieta, but the Ghanian forward looked rusty and off form. And though Berhalter value’s Oduro’s ability, he said he was comfortable starting Arrieta and leaving Anor and Jimenez on the wings.
“Dom has a lot of ability, he has a lot of talent, he can change the game in a moment,” Berhalter said. “I felt that Jairo’s been doing well. I think he’s been in good goal scoring form and we wanted to continue with him. The other option could have been Hector (Jimenez) or Bernardo (Anor) but they’ve been playing very good as well.
“It’s a problem that you’re faced with,” Berhalter continued, “but in trying to get everyone to buy into what a team is about, and (their) time will come, and you can still help the team with however many minutes you play, we have to make that decision.”
NEWS AND NOTES
- The Crew remain unbeaten at home against the Union, improving to 4-0-1.
- The Crew also remained undefeated in home openers in the last 10 years, with a 5-0-5 record.
- Federico Higuain played the match with a typo on the back of his jersey, with his last name spelled “Higauin.”
- Prior to the team introductions, the Crew unveiled the team’s new video board at the south end of the stadium, and had a scene with visual flames enveloping the scoreboard, poking fun at the infamous speaker fire in the scoreboard on April 27, 2013.