The club was coming off of a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of rivals Toronto FC, and Gregg Berhalter said he needed his team to fight back from the loss. Another loss would mark a three-game losing streak and a panic-inducing skid, while a win against the defending champs could right the ship.
Columbus got exactly what they needed in a dominant 3-0 victory over the depleted Sounders, and for their head coach, the result was what he expected.
“It was always going to be about the bounce-back," he said after the match. "How do we come back from a demoralizing defeat? We knew right away that the guys were different this week.”
Perhaps the biggest rebound of the group came from Justin Meram. The Columbus playmaker terrorized the Seattle defense, matching a career high with his eighth goal of the year and adding an assist on Ola Kamara's match-icing goal in the 59th minute.
Meram had one of his worst periods of play of the season in the Toronto loss, earning himself a 40th-minute exit as Berhalter gave him a quick hook. The winger said that match represented a “long 39 and a half minutes” that immediately left his memory.
He was so confident heading into Wednesday that he told reporters in training that he would perform and the team would win. He was right.
“I don’t remember what happened Friday,” he said. “I still have the confidence in myself, in this team, and I knew we were going to bounce back. That’s why I guaranteed the victory.”
Berhalter said he was “looking for something from [Meram] today,” and said the winger’s performances are tied closely to the team’s success.
“He’s an important part of our group; he’s an important part of what we do,” Berhalter said. “We believe in him 100 percent, and for this team to be successful, Justin Meram has to be successful.”
And for a Columbus team that’s in much better shape than they were in June a year ago, the bounce-back performance represents a confidence that Meram said has been built on the team’s hot start, and a win that reminds the club that they’re contenders.
“It doesn’t take away the embarrassment from the Toronto game, especially because we’re not going to see them again until the playoffs,” winger Ethan Finlay said. “But it thickens the skin. It’s something we can hold our head high about.
“There’s going to be another moment – another bad performance this season, most likely. But now we’ve shown that we can come back on quick rest and respond.”