The Columbus Crew opened their home schedule tonight with a 2-1 win over Philadelphia Union, marking a perfect start for new head coach Gregg Berhalter’s and the 17,517 in attendance. Tonight’s win also made history for Columbus, starting the season 2-0 for the first time.
From the offset you could see the change in style that Berhalter has brought to the team. The Crew were trying to keep more possession and build attacks from the defense, a big shift from the more direct approach from the last couple of seasons.
After a frantic opening 24 minutes with both teams having good chances to take the lead, Bernardo Anor opened the scoring for Columbus. Federico Higuain delivered an outswinging corner and Anor drifted past his marker to place a low header through a crowded goalmouth.
The impressive thing from the Crew in the first half was their play without the ball. The midfield and attack would not let Philadelphia settle on the ball and pressed high up the pitch to recover possession. This pressing led to their second goal on 44 minutes. After winning the ball back, Wil Trapp’s infield pass found a free Anor, who let rip with a blistering 30 yard shot that beat Zac MacMath to his right.
The Crew started the second half in a confident mood, dominating possession and creating a host of chances to finish the game off. These best fell to Anor giving him the chance to complete the hat-trick, but he could only manage to turn his shot around the post.
The worrying theme for Columbus throughout the game was the chances that the defense were serving up for Philadelphia. With three new defenders this season, there appeared to be a lack of understanding throughout the back line with Giancarlo Gonzales continuing to follow runners while the others were holding the line.
On 62 minutes Columbus were to pay for their defensive frailties as a poor header by Gonzalez fell to Sebastien Le Toux, whose first time cross found Leonardo Fernandes and duly he applied the finish. The Union were now dominating the game, but were unable to find a way past an inspired Steve Clark on his home debut.
“The fans tonight were awesome,” Trapp remarked. “Winning games for them, it will only get better. That was great to see we battled for them and they responded well to seeing us working hard and grinding out a tough game.”
The Crew returns to action on Saturday, March 29 in Seattle, when the Black & Gold take on Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field.