Chivas USA's whirlwind week continues with a third game in eight days on Sunday, as they travel to the midwest to take on the Columbus Crew for the only time in 2014. Both teams are coming off losses, but the Crew are still in position to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, provided they continue to pick up points. Given Chivas' form, they are probably licking their chops, but in order to get a sense of what's going on in Columbus, we spoke with Pat Murphy of SB Nation Crew blog Massive Report about his team. Big thanks to Pat for taking the time to answer my questions!
The Goat Parade asks Massive Report:
1. Columbus made a pretty significant splash in the offseason when they hired Gregg Berhalter as head coach. It seems Berhalter has made efforts to transform the team's playing style, but the results have been mixed. How would you assess Berhalter so far, and does he seem like the man to bring the Crew back to the top of MLS?
I think Berhalter has done well this year. If I had to give him a grade, it would be a B+ this year. The team is very much a work in progress as he attempts to build the team in his image. Robert Warzycha left the team with a lack of a recognizable system when he was fired and Berhalter is looking to fix that issue.
The season started brightly with three straight wins, but subsequently hit bumps. The Crew have played entertaining, possession-based soccer all season but recently things have started to come together. The players are really starting to grasp the system and they are beginning to get comfortable. Aside from last week's 2-0 loss to Montreal where the team seemed slightly disinterested, it appears the Black and Gold are hitting their stride.
2. Unlike Chivas, the Crew have maintained considerable stability over the years. Looking at if from the other side, so to speak, do you think Columbus' practice of making incremental changes has been a good policy for the club?
For the most part it has gone well. I will say the last year has brought more drastic changes than the organization had ever experienced with Anthony Precourt purchasing the team last July, the appointment of Berhalter and basically a new staff, the departure of president Mark McCullers, and the recent appointment of Andy Loughnane as President of Business Operations.
With that said, I think the Crew's approach of consistency certainly helped them. Their two major trophies, the 2002 U.S. Open Cup and the 2008 MLS Cup, came under the direction of head coaches who had time to get familiar with the organization - Greg Andrulis was an assistant coach since 1996 before becoming head coach in 2001 and Sigi Schmid was the boss for three seasons before winning the Cup - and kept many of the front office personnel.
In conclusion, it was certainly time for a change to get things moving back in the right direction, but there is certainly a history of success based on consistency.
3. Despite the stability, the Crew do have a relatively-new owner and promises of a brand revamp coming soon. With CUSA really hoping to get a good owner very soon, tell us what it's been like under Anthony Precourt the past year or so.
Precourt has been fantastic thus far as an owner. Despite living on the west coast, Precourt is frequently back for events in Columbus and is active with the team and the fans alike. So far he has significantly upgraded the locker rooms at both Columbus Crew Stadium and the team's training facility. The scoreboard at Crew Stadium got a much needed renovation with a new HD screen that also allows for more advertising. All of this is among other smaller things.
He also has done well with his hires thus far. As I said above, I think Berhalter is a good hire that will do better as time passes. Precourt has made the changes he felt necessary and though it has only been a short time, they seem to be moving in the right direction.
4. (Bonus) Prediction for this game?
Although the Crew were disappointing a week ago, Berhalter and the team believe they will get back to the way they played in the two previous weeks (4-1 over the LA Galaxy and 3-0 over the Houston Dynamo). I'm going to say they get back on a track with a 2-0 win.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!