Columbus Crew: Wilfried Nancy displayed trust for players in PKs vs Tigres

When the opportunity to advance the Crew to their first CONCACAF Champions Cup semifinals in club history came down to penalty kicks, coach Wilfried Nancy put his trust in the hands of the players.

Like every soccer team, the Crew have a list of players who can take penalty kicks. For Nancy, that was all the players needed to allow them to make the decision of who would take each kick after Columbus finished regulation and two extra periods tied with Tigres 2-2 in the aggerate.

“I told them a few words and after that I stepped back, so I was behind the scenes,” Nancy said. “I didn’t know who was going to take the PK. So, when I saw Max (Arfsten), … I saw him when he put the ball on the ground and stepped back and was straight in front of the ball, he didn’t give any indication where he was going to shoot.”

The moment Arfsten set up to take the Crew’s fifth and final penalty kick, Nancy had only one thought: “He’s going to make it.”

Arfsten’s successful kick was enough to send the Crew to the semifinals by a score of 4-3 in the shootout against Tigres on its home field. In the comeback victory, the Crew made history by becoming the first MLS club to defeat a Liga MX club after failing to win its home leg.

Last year, in his first season with the Crew, Arfsten made a limited amount of appearances and was used primarily as a late-game substitution. But this season he has created a more prominent role for himself, and the game-winning penalty kick only cemented that role for the 22-year-old.

At the start of penalty kicks, the Crew hit their first three attempts and goalkeeper Patrick Schulte blocked Tigres’ first two shots. Two makes from Tigres and a miss from Crew striker Cucho Hernandez meant Arfsten had to make his, or the teams would go into extra PK rounds.

“I just tried to stay calm as much as I could,” Arfsten said. “My teammates just told me, ‘Breathe, take a deep breath.’ It honestly helped a lot, I feel like my teammates helped me be calm and then, I just kind of stuck to the side I was going to go to, and once it went in, it was very relieving because I think it was a very difficult match.”

While Arfsten would feel the relief of securing a momentous victory, his face following the penalty kick was one of confusion. That’s because he was told by the referees “Don’t celebrate until we blow the whistle” before his attempt, in case they needed to go to VAR review.

“After I scored, I was confused because they didn’t blow the whistle right away,” Arfsten said. “It took them a little bit to blow the whistle and I was like, ‘Is it over or not?’ But gladly it was.”

Once the referees blew the final whistle, the normally reserved Nancy celebrated the victory. The second-year coach has never shied away from encouraging the players on his team from expressing their emotions, and after watching the Crew win he felt it was appropriate to allow himself to do the same.

“The first meeting that I had last year, we talked about creating memories,” Nancy said. “We talked about being limitless. And this is what we are doing. So, for me, I said it with a lot of humility, when I told that to my players, because for me as a human being, to achieve things you have to try things. It’s been my message and so, that’s why when we won this game, it was not by luck, it’s because there was a lot of work behind that, and I was emotional.”

From CONCACAF to Salt Lake City

There has been less than a five-day turnaround from one of the Crew’s biggest victories in club history to jumping back into MLS play.

The Crew will play at Real Salt Lake at 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

“I’m happy to go back with MLS, because we want to do well this season,” Nancy said. “I really like the energy of my players the last two trainings that we had. They were lively. They wanted to train. Obviously, we’re in really good spirits.”

Facing Tigres, the Crew were playing at a stadium that was quite a bit higher above sea level than at Field. On Saturday, they’ll be 4,450 feet above sea level.

“You definitely get a little bit more tired,” Arfsten said. “But I also think it’s one of those things that once you start playing, you kind of get used to it.”

Nancy confirmed that the Crew will have midfielder/defender Sean Zawadzki available in Salt Lake City, marking his return from a head injury on March 30. Defender Rudy Camacho and forward Alex Matan returned to action after recovering from respective injuries in the Tigres match.

The Crew will be without will forwards Christian Ramirez, who is still dealing with a thigh injury, and Hernandez, who is suspended for the match following his red card last Saturday.


This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus Crew resume MLS play following historic CONCACAF match

Source Link

About The Author


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *