Harrison Afful’s goal against NYCFC was big – Columbus coach

Head Coach and Sporting Director of Columbus Crew SC, Gregg Berhalter, has described Ghanaian defender Harrison Afful’s wonder goal against New York City FC in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal of the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs as “big”!

Players of the Crew, including their Ghanaian quartet, have earned plaudits from their coach for their excellent display in the first leg as well as their resilience in the second leg that saw them eliminate New York City FC on 4-3 aggregate score to set up a Conference finale against Toronto FC.

The Crew’s fourth goal in the first leg scored by Afful proved pivotal as NYCFC fell short in the second leg.

“From a quality standpoint, I think that was an amazing goal, so we were excited about that. In these legs, every goal is important and every goal helps. That’s why when we went up 2-0, our focus was on scoring more goals. We knew this was going to be a tough place to play tonight. We knew the size of the field. We knew the opponents are very good opponents. We knew the crowd was going to be behind them. We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game, so that goal was big.”

Even though Columbus lost the second leg 2-0 at the Yankee Stadium, Berhalter applauded his charges for not conceding a third goal that could have spelt doom for them.

“I think the goal of tonight was to advance, so we managed to do that. What I’d say for New York City is that they played an excellent game. It was a different team than we played two weeks ago for sure, and I can imagine as a coach when you’re playing an elimination game you want to come out and bring your best stuff, and they certainly did that so we were happy we advanced. It wasn’t our best game, but we got through.”

Defender Jonathan Mensah who will be playing his first ever Conference final said he and his teammates resolved to withstand any offensive pressure from NYCFC in the second leg and that was exactly what they did even when they were down by two goals.

“We had nothing to lose after the second goal. We had to be stronger than we were before. We came together and just fought through.

“We knew it was going to be like that because the field is very small, they’re going to come very hard, we just had to be prepared for it - and we were. As we trained, we planned for it, we knew everything was going to be fast and we were defending collectively and it went good”, Mensah added.
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