OBETZ, Ohio – Wednesday’s 3-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union may not have been Columbus Crew SC’s best display of their depth of the season, but it was the team’s first chance to see rookie Sergio Campbell in MLS action.
The defender played the full 90 minutes in his debut, and despite the scoreline, head coach Gregg Berhalter said the rookie did well to “tough it out.”
“He came up big on some plays,” Berhalter said. “Obviously there’s work to do, and we realize that. But overall, it was a good experience for him to get this game, and a good chance for us to evaluate it.”
Campbell said he didn’t want to grade his own performance, but was simply happy with the chance.
“For me, it was a great experience,” he said. “It was my first start, and the guys were pushing me and motivating me throughout the game and guiding me. So I think it was a fantastic experience.”
Despite not playing in 2015 yet, the center back said he was prepared to play even before getting the call.
“All of us here are here competing; we’re professional soccer players,” he said. “So it has to always be in the back of your head that something can happen and you can be out there any time. I try to prepare myself so that if my name is called, I’m ready to go.”
Campbell, who joined Crew SC after playing college soccer at the University of Connecticut, said MLS play was faster and more physical than what he was accustomed to, but that it was something he anticipated before the match. What he’ll need to work on, he said, is the mental side of the game.
“I think, for me, I just need to be more mentally prepared and concentrate more with all of the blindside movements of players and stuff like that,” he said. “But with more practice, I think that’s going to come in the end.”
Berhalter admitted that Campbell’s first start came in a “tough situation” on the road. But he said the coaching staff is looking at the young defender’s performance in a vacuum, rather than looking at the score.
“You want to evaluate his individual performance,” Berhalter said. “The team performance was below standard, and he fell victim a little bit to the team having an off night. He was part of that group. But there are a lot of positives to take from his performance.”
The Crew SC boss isn’t sure what the rest of the season will look like for Campbell, and the defender isn’t looking ahead just yet.
“It’s a process,” he said. “It’s my first game, so there’s nothing you can judge from that because it’s my first performance. Hopefully we can emulate the stuff that was good and work on the stuff that was bad. I don’t know what’s going to come after this; I don’t know what [Berhalter] has in mind for me.”