Normally, after three straight goalless losses, the Columbus Crew would be happy with a 3-3 draw on the road against the Portland Timbers.
But Saturday night's game at Providence Park was no normal affair. A 34th-minute red card to Portland's Alvas Powell gave the Crew a man advantage for nearly an hour, Federico Higuain posted a brace, and two separate one-goal leads had the side poised for its first victory since March 29. In other words, after blowing those two leads, the Crew know they could've -- or should've -- come away with more than a point.
“You're always disappointed with that; you're never happy to give up a lead,” Berhalter told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “And to give up goals in the manner that we gave up goals, I’m not happy with [that].
"But I can't fault the guys...the mentality part of it, they're going to get there.”
Berhalter said he had hoped his team would find an early goal in the second half to give them a commanding 3-1 lead with the man advantage, but at times it seemed that the Timbers, not the Crew, held the advantage.
“I would have liked a little more control of the game,” Berhalter said. “We created chances, but we also allowed some chances. As they got more depth and we put more numbers forward, we were still up a man, and we should've been able to control it better. When you look at the chances we had, we should have been able to score to make it 3-1.”
As the game got out of hand with three goals in the final ten minutes, the Crew felt the weight of the deafening crowd Providence Park, which added to the chaos down the stretch.
“Their fans...create a great atmosphere, and I think that affected us a little bit toward the end of the game in terms of controlling it and having that awareness and composure to kill the game off,” Berhalter said.
Defender Chad Barson, who made his 2014 debut Saturday, said that the players definitely noticed the difference the crowd made.
“Everyone throughout MLS knows that Portland is a difficult place to play,” he said. “The fans are really into it,...and they certainly had their team's back throughout the whole game.”
Seemingly the only player able to silence Providence Park on the night was the Crew's attacking catalyst, Higuain. His two goals, a gorgeous chip in the 14th minute and a successful penalty kick just before halftime, were only part of his performance. He also set up his teammates for good chances, particularly Jairo Arrieta, who had six shots on the night but failed to find the back of the net.
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“Federico is a quality player; we need him to be like this, and he was,” Berhalter said. “He's a difference-maker in this league. His performance was certainly exceptional.”
The Argentinian was everywhere throughout the match, and impressed as much with his work rate as he did with his wondrous right foot. Crew winger Ethan Finlay, who scored his first career MLS goal, said Higuain's performance warranted a win.
"[Higuain] was fantastic tonight,” Finlay said. “His play on the ball, how comfortable he was out there, how he dictated the pace of the game for us was tremendous. Unfortunately we couldn't come out with the win. He probably deserved it the most.”