Columbus Crew 'wanted to shut Atlanta crowd up' - Zack Steffen
Columbus Crew SC goalkeeper Zack Steffen said he was inspired to shut up Atlanta's crowd during a 3-1 penalty shootout victory that saw his side advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals on Thursday.
A playoff-record crowd of 67,221 took in the game at Atlanta's Mercedes Benz Arena and Steffen, who was in fine form throughout the 120 minutes of normal and extra time before making two penalty saves, said that spurred him on.
"We wanted to shut that crowd up, and we did," he said. "I mean it's been a long season. There's been a lot of games, so each experience you learn.
"Towards the end of the season, you kind of get into form. Right now, I feel good and the guys in front of me are playing well. I've got to keep the team in the game."
Of his match-winning performance in the shootout, Steffen added: "I just had a good feeling about kind of where [Atlanta were] going. Once you pick a side, you've just got to go all out.
"Fortunately, I was able to come up with one or two. I had a good feeling. I knew our guys were going to put them away. As long as I make one or two, it's ours."
Crew SC coach Gregg Berhalter said of his goalkeeper: "I think he played a great game, he stayed calm, he was focused.
"We met with the [ESPN] production crew yesterday and they asked me, 'What has been the most surprising thing this season so far?' I mentioned Zack. His poise, his calm and his performance, for being such a young player, is really special to see. Today is no exception."
Julian Gressel, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Jeff Larentowicz all missed their chances for Atlanta in the shootout, and coach Tata Martino admitted his team did not specifically train for penalties ahead of the game.
"I think we had the expectations that if it went to penalties, we would be able to take them," he said "But in training it's really tough to recreate those situations, of pressure situations in games."
Martino blamed his side's finishing for failing to break down Columbus over 120 minutes. Josef Martinez, who scored 19 goals in the regular season, came the closest but only struck the inside of the post.
"Sometimes that's how these games go," Martino said. "It's a little unfair that we finished pretty well this season, and tonight finishing was an issue. Some of the shots that we usually make, just tonight we didn't finish.
"It was a very even game. Columbus had their chances, and so did we. But I think over the course of the game, even though it was fairly even, we had more favorable chances than they did."
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