COLUMBUS, Ohio – After the fifth week of the young MLS season, Columbus Crew SC will be no worse than tied for first in the Eastern Conference. And while predicted Eastern Conference challengers like Atlanta United, the New York Red Bulls and New York City FC faltered this weekend, the Crew handily dispatched Atlanta to start their season with seven points from their first three home games.
The 2-0 win over Atlanta Saturday night came during unusual circumstances, with a waterlogged pitch and a lightning delay contributing to a strange match. But head coach Caleb Porter said the result – a major turnaround from a 3-0 loss in Philadelphia last weekend – showed his team at its best.
“I thought we showed the type of team we can be, and that was great to see,” he said. “We came out aggressive; we came out on the front foot; we came out and played our game. It looked like the identity that we want to be.”
Porter talked during the week about the need to build off of a convincing 1-0 win over FC Dallas in the previous home game, rather than the loss to the Union, and with the likes of Zack Steffen and Wil Trapp back in the fold, he liked what he saw in something of a statement win.
“When you see the complete group in there, we’ve had a good start to the season,” he said. “Obviously, we had the setback in Philly and we weren’t happy about that. We talked about responding and making a statement a little bit in this game playing the past MLS Cup champions. I think the guys did that.”
Team captain Trapp said the veteran team is at its best when they’re “together and focused and pulling in the same direction,” and said the Crew locker room is taking things one game at a time.
“For us – as we have in years past – it’s just about controlling what we can control, and that’s just the games that are given to us,” he said. “Every time we step on the field, especially at home, we want to win every game. I think you see the collective mentality and commitment to doing that.”
But for a group that overachieved in an Eastern Conference semifinal run last season, Crew players have their eyes on an even more successful 2019 campaign.
“We believe we can win, we can do amazing things,” winger Pedro Santos, who opened the scoring against Atlanta, said. “Last year, we did very, very good things but we didn’t win. We want to win. Everybody deserves to win and everybody wants to win, and that’s it.”