HEAD COACH CALEB PORTER
On Crew SC’s overall performance against the New England Revolution
We knew they [New England Revolution] were going to press us, we knew there were going to be three moments they [New England] were going to look to create goals and those three moments were in transition, crosses - getting it wide and serving and set pieces. Nothing they [New England] did surprised us. I thought they definitely came out with some venom and some aggressiveness and credit to them - in that first half, we got turned over a few times, I thought we broke the pressure also several times and the space was clearly behind their back line. We talked about it at halftime, once we break the pressure we got to get those final balls right, the final runs right and we missed a few in the first half. There was a couple where we got in, but we needed to be a bit better. I was really pleased with how we dealt with their style of play. It’s a difficult game for a team like us. We’re a soccer team, we want to keep the ball, we’re technical guys, we’re small and that was one of the biggest, most athletics teams that we’ve faced and clearly they gave us a few problems but at the end of the day, that period from the 50-55th minute to the 72nd minute when we put our foot on the ball and just took the air out of the game, for me - we made a statement a little bit, that our style wins out today. I was very pleased with that. [It] Took a set piece again but that’s football, sometimes it takes a set piece and I thought we were excellent dealing with their [New England] physicality, their direct play - it’s not an easy game for our team. That match up was a tough match up. You see it around the League, and I said it before our game, teams stumble and teams have stumbled at home - this weekend. This rollercoaster of MLS, you see it every week - there’s head scratchers and we didn’t want to be one of the head scratchers this week. This team [Crew SC] is very hungry, they're [Crew SC] driven and we can’t take games off. I thought they showed just how hungry they were in getting that result and grinding in a game that’s not always an easy type of game to play.
On Federico Higuain’s performance
I thought he was special tonight. He had his tail up and every time he got the ball, I thought ‘It’s going to be a goal’, he’s going to create something. There were a couple passes today that were world class. The one he played in behind to Pedro [Santos] was one of the best final balls I have ever seen - that’s a world class ball. He’s got more years left to play, on my team - I’m not letting him go. He’s got so much quality and I just love working with him and he’s one of the best players this league has seen in my opinion, in terms of play makers.
On playing the New England Revolution
That’s the type of game that happens a little bit in the way that they [New England] play, again credit to them [New England] because their style is very different than our style - they’re direct, we’re indirect. We want to play and keep the ball, they want to go direct and again, credit to them. I thought Brad [Friedel] and his staff did an excellent job, they were up for it mentally and they gave us some problems by pressing us but I thought again we wore them down in the second half and they had very little and really when you look at it, with all the crosses and set pieces they had and all the direct balls that they launched in, really Zack [Steffen] didn’t have much to do today and that’s a credit to our back line. They had four or five guys in that line, that they had to deal with all game long and deal with first balls and deal with crosses and deal with set pieces and I thought the entire back four were men - they were excellent. Specifically, I thought our outside backs today – Hector [Jimenez] and Waylon [Francis], for me, [were] two of the best performances of the day and obviously, great to see Josh [Williams] chip in on a set piece goal. So now you know it’s not just Gaston [Sauro] that can score those, it’s our other centerbacks too.
On the importance of set pieces
I could tell ya, but then I’d have to kill you [laughter]. I can’t tell you what we’re working on, but we value them [set pieces], because how can you not? In this game, goals are scored on set pieces a lot of the time and we don’t want to be the one giving up those goals, so I’ve been very pleased defensively that we haven’t conceded in those moments. This was a game we knew they [New England] were going to be bigger than us, athletic and they [New England] were going to look for those moments and because there were some fouls in the game, because it is a physical game we had a lot of set pieces to deal with, so I thought we defended them well and on the training ground we’re spending time on it. We’re spending time on it and when you spend time on it and you value it and then you score and you start to believe and the opponent starts to realize you’re going to maybe be scoring in those moments, then they get a little bit nervy and I think that’s what happened - that’s psychology. I think it all comes from our work on the training ground.
On becoming too reliant on set pieces
No, we’re not relying on it. It just so happens we’re scoring on them. It’s not like it’s taking away from anyone else. We should’ve scored obviously in that second half - we’re getting in good spots. I think again, in the past, this team has struggled to score goals. So, we’re working on it. We’ll continue to get into good spots. I think we’ll score more goals this year than we did last year – then they did last year and some of those goals may be set pieces. And some of them will hopefully be with our wingers, and some will be with our ten and of course Gyasi [Zardes] is going to chip in his fair share. But why not have those centerbacks chipping in on set pieces when you’re in those moments. That doesn’t take away from anything else we’re doing. It’s just we’re taking 10 minutes, Thursday and Friday, 15 minutes sometimes, and I think those 30 minutes are paying off.
On how important it is to sweep a team
It’s important. We don’t want to give teams below us life. It’s a difficult league. There’s a lot of parity here and they’re also a good team. They [New England] have a lot of talent on that team, and they’re very athletic. And like I said, I’m always hesitant to say strong statements. They [New England] might’ve been the most athletic team I’ve ever played. And we are a technical team and like I said, we’re not big. We have a few big guys in the back, but we’re built to keep the ball. We’re built to attack. I thought for us to deal with all the physicality, to deal with the transition in the track meet, once we lost the ball, for us to deal with the direct play and the crosses, I thought we were excellent. And we showed how hungry we are. These guys want to win. There was an element today, a fight, in the game and we were up for that fight and I think that’s why we did get some fouls because we’re not going to back down. We’re not going to back down in a game like this because we want to play, and we want to keep the ball, but you know what, if we have to fight, we’ll fight too because at the end of the day, we have to get 3 points.
On the quality and quantity of chances Crew SC is creating right now
We’re getting some good spots. I mean, again, you’re not going to get a better chance than the one you got second half- with the cross. And so, I think as you get in higher level games, I don’t know, maybe you’ve watched the Premier League, or maybe you’ve watched the world cup- in an organized game where teams are tight, and they’re physical, and they’re denying time and space, there’s not going to be a whole lot of chances. We’re moving in this league in a direction where there’s better shape with the way the teams are playing. Which means, it’s going to be more of a chest match, which means there’s going to be less chances. 10 years ago, it was an open game, this League. It was you attack, we attack, and there’s chances everywhere. That’s not a high-level game. A high-level game is very tight. It’s very tight. And there’s going to be a few chances either way and it comes down to set pieces. It comes down to the quality and the four or five chances you get. But we’ll score plenty of goals. And we had some good looks today- we missed some final balls, and a couple crosses, but again, I thought our football showed in that second half when we put our foot on it and kind of took the steam out of the game, and the air out of it and wore them down a bit. I’m just really pleased that we didn’t give up many chances because in a game like this, when they’re dumping balls, you’re first to drop in a little bit – you have no choice. If you don’t they’re going to have numbers. And so, we had to drop in, but they didn’t really get any clear looks with all the balls in the box- all the crosses and all the direct play. That’s a credit to how we defended and that needs to be applauded because in soccer, defending is half the battle and we’re a good defensive team and we’ll find our goals and we’ll play good for ball.
On Columbus Crew SC being good defensively
Again, I think we have to be. I’ve never seen a good team that’s not good defensively. Especially championship teams, they’re always good defensively. You’re not out scoring teams every game- that’s unrealistic. And again, this team in the past, hasn’t scored a lot of goals so we’re going to have to be good defensively. And 1-0 is a great win. You don’t need 2, you don’t need 3. I still want that killer instinct. I still think we should’ve gotten the second goal. You saw the chance. 9 out of 10 times Gyasi [Zardes] buries that. And that would’ve been 2-0 and you guys are talking about how good we are in the tax, scoring 2 goals. But it’s unrealistic to think we’re going to get 10 chances in a game.
DEFENDER JOSH WILLIAMS
On how it felt to score the game-winning goal tonight
It always feels good to get one in, especially in front of the home crowd and for it to be a game winner. Looking past that, I thought we looked incredible defensively, front to back. I know “G” (Gyasi Zardes) didn’t get on the board tonight, but it’s his presence up top – fighting for balls – it makes it hard on your defender, so having him (Zardes) up there for us means a lot.
On the key to getting another shutout
I think this organization wanted a back line, and I think that this defense might be the deepest part of our team. We have a lot of guys with experience, and whoever is called upon that week I feel like has done a great job of preparing for each game, and that’s for everybody. I know Gyasi (Zardes) has been unbelievable this year, and this week Caleb called my name, so kudos to those guys on being prepared.
On the key to getting goals from set pieces this season
Pipa [Federico Higuain]. Pipa and Pedro [Santos]. The service has been exceptional, and it has always been that way. I was telling Duncan after the game, we’re just the big dumb guys who run up there and then the maestro puts it on our heads. I think as long as we get our runs in the box, and the key is to run hard, but you got to get to your spot. Sometimes you have to be unselfish and run to a spot knowing the ball is going to the back post, or you need to make the near post run.
MIDFIELDER FEDERICO HIGUAIN
On the importance of winning tough matches at home early in the season
New England is a very strong team, big guys but athletic at the same time. So, you will never play with time or you will never play comfortable against them. I think we scored in a very good moment and then when we could play, we played. We did it. When we had to fight, we fought. It was very nice, you know? You will never play the game that you want, so sometimes you have to fight and sometimes you can play, so that was good to see tonight.
On the effectiveness of set pieces early on this season, and whether the team is doing anything different
No, when you see our central defenders, they are big guys. Big guys, good headers. We just want to be sure that [we’re] putting the ball in the right spot and we know these guys will do their best to score. They’re doing a great job this season and I’m happy for them.
On how he feels about being Crew SC’s joint all-time regular-season leader in assists
Happy, very happy. I’ve been here a long time and I want to thank all the technical staff for believing in me, for giving me the opportunity to play and [I want to thank] my teammates too. This game is 11 against 11 and without them I wouldn’t be able to do anything.