Gregg Berhalter says second straight rally for victory leaves Columbus Crew "battle tested"

After the Columbus Crew rallied from a one-goal deficit to beat the Montreal Impact 2-1 last weekend, defender Michael Parkhurst said a game of that nature that forces a team to overcome challenges is be more valuable than a blowout victory.

If that’s true, the Crew have just had a pretty important two-week stretch. And head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter echoed those sentiments after their 2-1 away victory Saturday night over the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium, giving the Crew a two-game winning streak on the heels of a trying seven-game winless skid.

“Overall I’m pleased,” Berhalter told the media in his postgame comments. “You need these games to build the team. You need to be battle tested. And games like this, you know, battle test you.”

The Crew were forced to withstand an early New England barrage in the first 30 minutes, even heading into the locker room at halftime with a 1-0 lead thanks to a expertly struck free kick by Federico Higuain in the 43rd minute.

Columbus then conceded the lead five minutes into the second half on an A.J. Soares corner-kick goal.

But the Crew battled back once again and walked away with all three points after an Ethan Finlay winner in the 84th minute, set up with a long feed from second-half substitute Justin Meram.

“You’ve got to be able to withstand the storm,” Finlay said. “ … They were coming quick, and they have a lot of guys who are good offensively and make tick tacky plays and do one-twos, and to be able to weather that storm and get to the second half and have the lead, and unfortunately give it up, and then battle back is great and it shows the perseverance of the team.”

Berhalter said his substitution of Bernardo Anor for Meram just a minute before the Finlay goal was meant to give Columbus fresh legs for a final push for the winner. Berhalter said putting together two straight wins after a long fruitless stretch was important for his group.

“We make moves like that to win,” he said. 

Berhalter said the play itself that set up the win was something they talked about, their wide attackers tucking in to make runs behind the center backs. Finlay also made a similar run in the first half that drew a foul, setting up Higuain’s free-kick goal.

“It was exactly what we talked about; it was great execution,” Berhalter said.

When asked what the difference has been in the Crew’s last two games, Berhalter said it’s been a matter of limiting the other team’s chances – especially late. He said, for example in their loss May 31 against Toronto FC and draw against Portland on May 17, they allowed late goals that cost them results.

“These games we’ve closed,” he said. “The Montreal game we came from behind, and in the last stretch we had to grind it out and we did it. And this game, same type of environment, and we did it.”