For the second match in a row, a stunning goal was the difference for the Columbus Crew, as a Justin Meram goal after four minutes of stoppage time clinched a comeback 2-1 win over the 10-man Seattle Sounders on Saturday and continued the team's first-ever win streak to start a season.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter said he told Meram – an 89th-minute substitute – to go score a goal before he put him in, and the Michigan product obliged.
“I've been working on curling it, and I just saw the opportunity and took it,” Meram told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the match. “There was a lot of space on that field, whether they were a man down or not. So it's always an advantage for a player like me to have space in one-on-one battles."
Berhalter said the goal was a product of the team's commitment to playing quality soccer even on the road in a harsh environment.
“Obviously, to get the winner that late is a tremendous result for us, and a great effort,” Berhalter said. “You see that we wanted to try to play, we wanted to play our game, and we knew it was going to be tough. And we just kept going and we didn't give up. At times, it was a little sloppy. We got punished for turnovers, but in the end we just kept going.”
That mentality was evident well before kickoff, and Meram said that he and the other players had discussed their newfound confidence before the match.
“This was the first time I felt going into the road and a hostile environment that we're going to win,” he said.
“Really, it's that confidence that the coaching staff has in us and that we have as players. That's what you need as professionals going into an environment like this. Seattle is a really good team with a lot of big names, but every game we're going to come out and we want to dominate possession play, create chances and come out on top.”
For the first time in his tenure with the Crew, Berhalter was in a situation to give a come-from-behind speech after going down 0-1 at the half. And though the Crew made a plethora of mistakes in the first 45 minutes, Meram said Berhalter stayed consistent in his message.
“He was very positive,” Meram said. “We were playing good soccer, there was just a moment when they had odds and they scored.”
Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark, who made several game-saving saves in the match, reiterated that the team is all on the same page, and that Columbus started the second half with confidence thanks in part to the conversation at the half.
“We all like each other; there's a lot of good chemistry,” he said. “We just want to play our game and we don't really care who we're playing. To come here, it's a pretty tough place to come, and they had been beating us in the first half. But we came back out and we believed in ourselves.”