Focused, determined Columbus Crew SC ready for Atlanta United challenge

FLUSHING – Off the field, it was a tumultuous week for Columbus Crew SC.

It was also a tumultuous first half on Sunday at Citi Field. There, on Decision Day presented by AT&T, Crew SC faced NYCFC, and went into halftime on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline.

It brought about a passionate team talk in the locker room by coach Gregg Berhalter.

“We were just not playing our way, not moving for each other, not confident on the ball, and Gregg came in here and let us know what a great team we are, and individually, we have the quality to challenge this team,” Justin Meram said. “We came out, and you saw the composure on the ball and everyone moving and switching the play. It was a much better second half.”

Columbus took the game to NYCFC, found the equalizer off the head of defender Josh Williams, and had the hosts under pressure for portions of the final 45 minutes in the 2-2 draw. Crew SC aren't pleased to leave Citi Field with just one point, but it is 10 consecutive without a defeat heading into the postseason.

“We always have this mindset that we go out there, complete, and get the best of everyone and that’s what we did today,” Jonathan Mensah said. “We were down 2-1, but we didn’t back down. We kept pushing.”

The key in the second half, according to Wil Trapp, was better communication and movement, which was lacking in the opening 45 minutes.

“Initially we were all over the place with the tempo being played, with the quality of them switching the play and making it difficult for us,” he said.

Williams beat NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson to Federico Higuain’s corner kick and headed in his third goal of the year, a meaningful tally against his former club.

“Obviously it’s special in a certain way, but I don’t want to be disrespectful,” Williams said. “I have nothing but good memories here. There’s always a little extra playing a team that let go of you, but at the end of the day I was trying to get my team to the playoffs and the highest seed possible.”

Now, with the drama of last week behind them, the focus for Crew SC is squarely on the MLS Cup playoffs and a Knockout Round showdown with Atlanta United.

“We’re not going to be scared of Atlanta,” Berhalter said. “We know they’re a good team. We’re going to have a lot of respect for them, a lot of respect for the environment the stadium has, but we’re not going to be scared.”