Lost in the shadow of Matt Reis’ MVP-like season, as well as Jon Busch’s comeback player of the year-like season, has been the extremely solid season being put in by Columbus goalkeeper Wil Hesmer, who has done his part to make Crew fans stop counting the days until Brad Friedel returns.
Hesmer was at it again on Sunday, stoning the Colorado Rapids left and right as he helped Columbus overcome being a man down to secure a 2-0 victory against the Rapids. The win keeps the Crew near the top of the East, and also leaves Colorado continuing its struggle for consistency.
SBI correspondents Brant Guillory and Craig de Aragon took in the action and shared their thoughts on the match with us.
Hesmer the hero for surging Crew
By BRANT GUILLORY
Sorry Colorado. I know you were a man up for over a half. I know you had plenty of shots, plenty of good look at the goal. I know Conor Casey had a night that would’ve been good for two or three against anyone else on any other night. But we had William Hesmer. Will-iam! Hes-mer! Clap! Clap! Clapclapclap!
I feel for you, Rapids fans. Pablo might be my all-time favorite player that’s never played for The Crew, and I generally like Colorado. So it hurts to see such a great offensive performance wasted. However, let’s all be honest: Hesmer wasn’t just in the zone, he owned the zone. The Dutch national team playing during the group stage of Euro 2008 might not have scored against him Sunday. The 2001 Bayer Leverkusen lineup (Ballack, Berbatov, Neuville, Ze Roberto, Ramelow) wouldn’t have found net against Hesmer. The only time Colorado hit net was hitting the side of it, or the top of it, or some part other than the important part of it.
William Hesmer was the runaway choice for man of the match, but he was hardly the only standout performance from Columbus. Eddie Gaven’s return from injury was solid quality game, with deft passes to the right people in the right places at the right times. He showed why he might likely have been Beijing-bound were it not for his injuries and Robbie Rogers’ ascension. He never played a dumb ball, even if it meant playing a safe ball. And his runs forward were aggressive and well-timed.
Complementing Gaven in the midfield were Miglioranzi in the CAM role and Lenhart on the right side. Mig’s first game in place of Evans in was a bit shaky. This game, though, he settled down, and quit playing with one eye constantly over his shoulder. His passes were confident and crisp, and while he didn’t win many 50-50 balls in midfield, he didn’t get knocked off the ball very easily, either. His assist to Lenhart on the through-ball was the perfect idea, even if the execution was a bit off. He was replaced by Evans at the half, but I have to believe based on his performance that the decision to sub him was based on the reality of playing a man down, and not an indictment of his performance.
Lenhart had played as a forward in most of his appearances this year. Tonight, though, he was plugged into the wide midfield in place of Columbus’ other Olympian (Ekpo, playing for Nigeria). Yes, he scored the goal that gave Columbus the lead; but while he made the right play – aggressive and skillful – it was the hesitation of the Colorado keeper that allowed him to get to the ball in time. The rest of the night, he seemed caught in no-man’s-land. Unsure of how far forward he could, or should, range with Hejduk behind him, Lenhart was frequently caught between charging forward or making sure he was far enough back to cover for Frankie when he blazed up on his trademark overlapping runs.
Even worse for Lenhart, though, was his red card. Even if it was an accident, there was no reason – none, zip, zilch, zero, nada – for that elbow to be that high. You’re in the box. The ball’s coming right over your head. You can’t get to it, but the ref is watching the flight of the ball. He’s looking right at you. Keep your damn elbows down! I learned that in 2d grade! Instead, Columbus played a man down for the entire second half, because Lenhart made a dumb play.
Columbus’ defense had a lot to do with the stifling of the Colorado offense. As many shots as the Rapids were able to launch, it might have been much, much worse, were it not for Chad Marshall directing traffic and closing down interior attacks. Iro is talented, but learning. O’Rourke is on his third position in 10 months. Hejduk runs all over the field. It took Marshall playing traffic cop in the back to keep some semblance of a defensive line in front of Hesmer. Watching the game, all I could think was that Hesmer would’ve faced twice as many shots without Marshall back there.
Schelotto gave way in the 63rd for Columbus’ favorite Cajun, Jason Garey. Garey had been slowed by injury early in the season, but has been tearing up the reserve division, averaging nearly a goal a game when he plays. Tonight, he made a case for playing more. He scored a beautiful goal on heart and effort. He pestered the Rapids defense into multiple mistakes. He was a Coundoul swipe at his head from putting in a second. And he was doing it all while Columbus was a man down. Garey might not displace Moreno at the starting forward position, but he sure gave Sigi something to think about.
We’ll trust him, though. This year, most of Sigi’s decisions have gone pretty well. The O’Rourke experiment is, well, it’s entertaining, at least. The revolving door at CAM might have settled on Miglioranzi for a while. The vast depth at defensive midfielder, and pestering forward don’t seem likely to be tested, so Sigi’s going to have to figure how to best play people out of position over the next few weeks, to cover the parts of the lineup that are either thin (left back, CAM) or over-committed (outside midfielders).
The Crew now have a hard game coming up at Houston. They’re without Rogers and Ekpo on Olympic duty. They’ll be without Lenhart and Hejduk, suspended for ketchup and mustard accumulations, respectively. They’ll be playing in Houston in August, which should be illegal. And they’ll be doing it with a makeshift lineup and an MVP who might collapse from heart failure by halftime.
But tonight, they were able to go into Colorado and steal a game, not just a point. They were able to play smart, and not just work hard at the pedestrian parts of their game. They played quality balls forward, and found people to finish them. Columbus left with a 2-0 win and both goals nominated for Goal of the Week (vote for Garey’s; it was better). And they had Hesmer covering the net, who likely changed in a phone booth after the game and put his Superman costume back on to go stop an asteroid from hitting Earth or something.
Rapids can’t take advantage of countless chances
By CRAIG de ARAGON
Wasted chances and missed opportunities. That is the lament of Fernando Clavijo and Rapids fans after watching Colorado shoot the ball 23 times and not be able to find the back of the net once in their 2-0 loss to Columbus Sunday night. 48 minutes of a man advantage were not capitalized on, 17 corner kicks were wasted, 7 shots on goal were saved, 1 penalty kick was not called, and 0 points were added to the tally of the 6th place team in the West.
The Rapids didn’t play all that bad, actually, they outplayed Columbus. Two mistakes were what cost Colorado points. It’s been the same story all year. Any mishap or hesitation by the defense or Bouna Coundoul has been pounced on and scored by the opposition. I will say that you have to make your own breaks; however, this team seemingly hasn’t gotten the ball to bounce their way once this year and the refs haven’t helped either. You will never convince me that Facundo Erpen’s “foul” in the box last week was worse than Andy Iro’s takedown of Conor Casey this week.
Iro played clumsily and recklessly all game in fouling and pulling down Rapids players, yet never got called for a yellow until the 80th minute. As Marcelo Balboa said during the broadcast when finally the caution was shown to Iro, “that’s about 20 minutes too late”. If there was once statement to sum up this seasons performance, and maybe the history of the club, it would be “that’s about 20 minutes too late”.
Will Conor Casey have Will Hesmer in his nightmares? I’m sure he will. Hesmer turned in a great performance in continually foiling the Rapids attempts at goal, specifically Casey. Conor Casey had a good game and a terrible game all at the same time. He gracefully and powerfully put himself into positions to attack goal. Most nights he does the same thing without the service to do anything with it.
That was not the case Sunday night; he had service coming at him all game and couldn’t do anything with it. He had to have scored on at least one of those chances, didn’t he? His turn and left footed shot in the first half was a thing of beauty and deserved to go in the net. Will Hesmer didn’t think so. Maybe the most ludicrous part of the game was at the end when Conor Casey was given the Man of the Match award. Anyone that had 2 eyes and watched the game knows that Hesmer stole the show, but I guess the media was voting on who wasted the most chances and missed the most opportunities.