COLUMBUS, Ohio – Suddenly, the Columbus Crew have more offense that can fit on the field.
After their 3-0 victory Saturday night over the Houston Dynamo at Crew Stadium, their second straight three-goal win, Columbus have seven goals in two games and are entrenched in the race for Eastern Conference supremacy.
But just three weeks ago, the team’s mindset was dire.
After a devastating 3-2 loss to Toronto FC on Aug. 9 – their third defeat at the hands of their rival this season – head coach Gregg Berhalter called a special meeting and demanded accountability from his team.
"We were disappointed with the results, the result of that game, and the performances," he told reporters after Saturday's match. "We sat down and aired it out. We asked every guy, 'What can you be doing better? How can you be more accountable?'"
The result, he said, was a refocus of the locker room and a return to the tight-knit squad that once greatly benefitted the team.
"I think team spirit goes a long way," he said. "The team spirit has gotten better within the team. I think the conflict we had made us stronger. We don't want to shy away from that. You're going to have conflict throughout the year; it happens."
Winger Justin Meram, who has scored a goal and added an assist in each of the last two matches, said the entire team found meaning in that meeting, and that they feel more galvanized than ever.
"[Berhalter] looked everyone in the eye and said, 'What are you going to do better that's going to help the team?'" Meram said. "We wrote some things down and everyone's stepping up to what they wrote down. It's not going to be easy. Like Gregg says, it's going to be a tough battle, and it's who's going to want it more."
The result has been unquestionable, and the momentum from beating LA carried into the Houston matchup.
"I think we came into today with a lot of confidence from the LA game," said forward Adam Bedell, who scored the Crew’s second goal against Houston. "It's always good coming off of a win, and it was good to be at home again. It was a good team performance, and we're very, very happy."
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Despite the landmark defeat of the Galaxy, Berhalter said that the Houston victory topped it.
"I thought it was a very, very solid performance," he said. "It's easy to get up to play the Galaxy, with the names and the quality and the crowd and everything. But today against Houston, an Eastern Conference opponent who's on our heels in the table, I thought this was a very strong performance."
Berhalter said the team isn't ready to be a club that leads the conference for an entire year. But after a much-needed resurgence, he's happy with where they stand.
"We went through a tough stretch, but we kept playing the way we want to play," he said. "We're right in the mix, and that's where we expect to be at."