The Columbus Dispatch

Nancy wants Crew to manage momentum better at Toronto

- Bailey Johnson

In Saturday’s win over D.C. United, Crew coach Wilfried Nancy wasn’t thrilled with his team’s lack of control of the game’s momentum. While the Crew won 2-0, D.C. had the majority of the possession.

D.C.’S ability to seize control was driven in large part by the Crew’s tendency to rush passes through the middle of the field, allowing D.C. to intercept them and attack the other way. Nancy wants the Crew to maintain possession and enforce their style on the opponent, rather than playing in reaction to what the opposing team does.

On Saturday night in Toronto, Nancy will be looking for the Crew to have a deeper understand­ing of managing momentum.

“The idea is to stay focused on this principle, this concept,” Nancy said. “Knowing that when we play away, if we have the momentum, it could be good for us because the team playing at home, they are in trouble. Sometimes, as a human being, it’s not easy to play at home, because when everything goes bad, as a human being, we have our ego. Sometimes, we can take advantage of that.

“But on the opposite side, when we don’t have the momentum, it could be really difficult also. That’s why I love my job. Every moment is different and there is a momentum. You have to manage the momentum and, for me, this is one of the most difficult parts to teach and to coach.”

Nancy’s desire for the Crew to manage the game’s momentum ties into his principle of understand­ing when to speed up and when to slow down, which the Crew struggled with at times both against D.C. and in the first game at Philadelph­ia.

The Crew have made significan­t strides in implementi­ng Nancy’s detailed, nuanced style of play, but some elements, like learning to control the tempo, can be learned only through game action.

“The whole team is trying to adapt to his philosophy,” said Crew forward Yaw Yeboah. “At the moment, in training it’s been really good. We all understand how he wants us to play. Of course, we’re going to make mistakes from time to time, but I think in time, we’ll all get it. At the moment, we just want to win games, so we have to do what it takes.”

After losing to D.C. in the first week of the season and tying Atlanta last week, Toronto is seeking its first win of the season while playing its first home game of the year. Even on a cold night — the temperatur­e at kickoff looks to be in the mid-to-high 20s — playing in front of Toronto’s home crowd offers a chance for Nancy to test how the Crew have absorbed his message about controllin­g momentum this week.

“If we stay focused on the task, what we have to do with the ball and without the ball, in terms of desire to achieve a performanc­e, this is the same,” Nancy said. “Now, the difference is it’s more difficult. As we know, away game, the energy and the crowd, this is not the same . ... We know that it’s going to be difficult. We know that maybe the weather also is going to be difficult.

“I love it because it’s going to be a good opportunit­y to see the resilience of my players. This is something that we have to be better.”

 ?? ADAM CAIRNS/COLUMBUS DISPATCH ?? Crew midfielder Lucas Zelarayan (10) celebrates a goal against D.C. United at Field on March 4.
ADAM CAIRNS/COLUMBUS DISPATCH Crew midfielder Lucas Zelarayan (10) celebrates a goal against D.C. United at Field on March 4.

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