OBETZ, Ohio – In the aftermath of Tuesday's announcement that Columbus Crew SC are exploring options for a new stadium in Columbus or a potential move to Austin, head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter explained that his playoff-bound squad would not be affected by the news.
“You guys are reading into this a little too much in terms of how you’re thinking it will affect the group,” he told media at the club's training facility. “The group is extremely focused right now. They’ve been working really hard. … Any announcement isn’t going to throw us off track.”
Crew SC are currently the hottest team in MLS (6W-0L-3D) having already clinched their berth in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs. They will entering their matchup on Decision Day presented by AT&T against New York City FC with a chance at moving all the way up to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference (4 pm ET; MLS LIVE).
For Crew SC midfielder Justin Meram, who has been with the club for the last seven seasons, the news still wasn’t easy to hear.
“It’s a difficult moment,” he said. “We’re all humans. We understand what’s going on here. But we have a job to do, and that’s to win games and perform to the best of our ability.”
Joining Meram to comment on the news was captain Wil Trapp, a central Ohio native, who echoed Berhalter's comments that the players will need to be focused on performing.
“To say there’s going to be no effect [on players], that’s something that each and every one of us has to think about,” he said. “But we have to be professionals. At the end of the day, our job is on the field and winning games.”
Trapp said “people react how they react,” and that he can only affect how the players respond on the field.
“No decisions have been made,” he said. “We, as players, can’t control that. I can’t control that. So I’m not going to worry about it. I’m going to try to get my guys ready to play on Sunday and be as professional as possible.”
Trapp also sent out a series of tweets after an emotional Tuesday.
Meram and Trapp both said they understood fans’ concerns, with Meram offering some hopes for the road ahead.
“Things haven’t changed on our end; why should they change on their end?” he said. “We love this club as much as everybody else does. We’re still here now and it’s not a done deal. So we need their support to come out and be there for us. We’re not going to go out there and lay an egg because we might possibly be leaving.”