Gregg Berhalter has the Columbus Crew off to their best start in franchise history. After beating the Seattle Sounders -- on the road, no less -- the Crew are now 3-0-0, having scored seven goals and beaten two teams who should at least be contending for playoff spots in the process.
The start is impressive on its own, what makes the Crew intriguing is how they've done it. While most teams come into CenturyLink Field content to counter-punch, the Crew were intent on playing their game. And that game is a lot of fun to watch.
The Crew are getting these results while overloading the offensive half -- not just allowing their fullbacks to overlap but often pushing them above their outside midfielders. They do a great job of keeping possession and pressing the opponent's goal. All the while, they are giving midfield maestro Federico Higuain room to do what he does best, which is run around the field looking for the ball and creating magical moments. When it's all working, it's a lot of fun to watch.
Against the Sounders, Higuain finished with a goal -- on a penalty -- and hit the crossbar on a pretty chip attempt. He also had the assist on the game-winning goal with a short corner to Justin Meram, who was unmarked at the top of the penalty area.
But, truth be told, the Crew were also a bit lucky to get out of Seattle with all three points. Up until Dominic Oduro drew a penalty and red card on Djimi Traore in the 57th minute, the Sounders were revealing exactly how to beat the Crew and were probably a bit unlucky not to having a bigger lead than 1-0.
The Sounders were losing the possession battle, but were still coming up with the far better scoring opportunities up to that point. The Crew have goalkeeper Steve Clark to thank for keeping the Sounders from scoring three or four goals on the counter. Lamar Neagle could have scored a first half hat trick if not for Clark's efforts.
As good as the Crew looked when they had the ball in the offensive half, they only really created one or two dangerous chances. More than that, the Sounders were doing a great job of generating turnovers in the Crew's end, logging 10 offensive-half interceptions in the first 57 minutes. After many of those, the Sounders found themselves with numbers running at the Crew goal.
Yes, the Crew deserve tons of credit for winning on the road, even if it was against a 10-man side. They executed a bold gameplan that also deserves credit for generating a man advantage. But they are very much walking on a tightrope, and you can expect other teams to mimic the Sounders' gameplan. The real test for Berhalter's side starts now.