Not only were they trailing NYCFC 2-1 after blowing an early lead – an uncommon situation during more than two months of a now 10-game unbeaten run – but they were also dealing with the fallout from a week that most sports teams wouldn’t dream of.
Club owner Anthony Precourt announced days earlier that he was exploring the possibility of moving the team to Austin, Texas, and while the players put on an all-business front, it affected them.
“It’s a difficult moment,” Justin Meram said last week. “We’re all humans. We understand what’s going on here. But we have a job to do, and that’s to win games and perform to the best of our ability.”
Multiple Crew SC players said the first half of the New York City game was a symptom of that odd week.
Berhalter even admitted that the swirling week of media around the club affected the players, especially a rally held by Crew fans at Columbus City Hall just four hours before the match kicked off Sunday.
“The emotional rally was on Sunday – there was a lot of social media around it – and don’t think this hasn’t affected us; of course it has,” Berhalter said Tuesday. “This is our home. These are our fans. This is our club. So of course it has an effect.”
For team leaders like Josh Williams and Wil Trapp, halftime of Sunday’s match became an important moment to regroup. And even more important than finding a game-tying goal in the second half of the 2-2 draw, returning to their usual selves became a sign that they could handle the tumultuous times.
“Anyone who’s watched us this last stretch of games knows that wasn’t us,” Williams said. “At halftime, Gregg came in and laid into us, but I looked around the locker room and I wasn’t too worried. I knew we could respond, and the way we responded was huge.
“It told me that we were basically moved on, that we were ready for this next step. That was so huge. It was amazing to see.”
Trapp said the group was “just back to normal” in the second half, during which Williams found a 58th minute equalizer.
Williams said he knew shortly after halftime the group “got it out of our system,” and despite his halftime anger Sunday, Berhalter said he’s happy with how his players have responded as they prepare to travel to Atlanta United for an Eastern Conference Knockout Round game on Thursday (7 pm ET; ESPN2 and UniMas in the US, TSN4 and TVAS in Canada).
“You can’t predict how guys are going to react,” Berhalter said. “Events like that don’t happen too often in a player’s career. So overall we’re happy.”