When the Columbus Crew traveled to RFK Stadium last Thursday it was expected to be a predictable match. D.C. would get its attack going and post a win while the Crew would struggle on the road and lose in D.C. yet again.
The outcome was anything but predictable. The Crew thoroughly outplayed D.C. United on the way to a 2-1 victory that moved them into first place in the Eastern Conference, while dropping D.C. United into last place.
SBI Correspondents Mark Fidler (stepping in this week for Rich Fidler) and Joel Sanderson took in the action and provided their takes on Thursday night’s match.
A look back at the Crew’s victory
By MARK FIDLER
Starting the game off both teams looked equally ready for the match and both on top of things. You could almost smell it in the air, or see it through the television, but there was a great match about to be played. Brian Carroll gave DC United their first opportunity of the night in the 4th minute as he took Fred down on the left side of the pitch. Marcelo Gallardo took this dangerous free kick from about 30-yards out but it was blocked away at the last second after Luciano Emilio nearly knocked it in.
However Carroll and Rogers had other plans and started it all off for The Crew moments later as they took the ball and knocked it up the pitch and carried it to the top of the box. Passing up on the first defender it came down to a two on one situation, a lane opened, and Rogers let it rip. Sadly the ball ripped wide left in an exciting start to the game. While The Crew fans were excited about the start and ready for another crazy win, Will Hesmer was about to get his first real showing in the match in the 14th minute as Emilio sent the ball out wide to Fred. Returning it back inside for a header at close range, Will Hesmer quickly got to the ball and stopped yet another close call for the Crew.
DC United’s attack was focused mainly on the wide sides for Fred and Namoff and Gallardo had very little space to work with all game. However things worked out differently on the other side. Controlling the midfield and pushing the ball forward to kick-start the attacks for the crew, Schelotto was the one to shine yet again in the first half of the match. In the 30th minute Schelotto had an opportunity to claim the first goal of the game but was denied by Zach Wells in a spectacular ripping kick after a pass back toward the top of the box from the deep left side of the post. The Crew would have their redemption only two minutes later in a beautiful setup begun by whom other than Schelotto. In a short through ball forward to Frankie Hejduk deep within the box, a low cross from Hejduk was all that was needed for Alejandro Moreno to do what he does best. Slidding through and beating Namoff to the near post, Moreno connected with the ball knocking it past Wells, giving The Crew their first goal of the night.
Bryan Namoff wasn’t trying to let the game slip away that easy and just ten minutes later he took a beautiful shot just outside the box that curved just left of the goal. After the miss he must have believed he deserved another chance because just two minutes later in the 42nd minute, DC United drew the defense of The Crew to the left side of the field which allowed Namoff to rip a shot after a long pass back to the right side. His shot was deflected but in the worst kind of way. The ball ricocheted off Adam Moffat as he ran to try and be a one man wall to save a clean sheet. Hesmer had no chance after the ball got deflected and the ball blew inches past his head
As with the entire theme of the match, Moffat must have been looking to make up for something when moments later he found himself deep in the box facing a scrambling Wells. Wells took the dive after the ball and Moffat chipped it up and over the bumbling goalies head toward the net to our favorite man Moreno who battled his way through two defenders hanging all over. While it was first considered a second goal by Moreno, it was later reviewed and ruled that the goal was actually off the head of defender Gonzalo Peralta for an own goal. Now sitting at 2-1, the Columbus Crew got to take a breather and head in for the half.
Starting into the second half it was obvious The Crew was going to be playing a more slowly-paced game. The men that got forward on offense were few between while the defense seemed almost unstoppable. DC United gave a couple more attempts on goal but all were kicked and knocked out by the defense. Hedjuk and Moreno continued playing their hearts out, taking a couple nice shots in the 54th and 67th minutes but both were stopped just short of upping the score. There was also one attempt by Gellardo that had me about falling over in the 67th minute. He put a long cross over to the far post that was taken by Fred but went just wide and past the netting. Too close for me!
Not that there is anything to worry about for next weeks match up against Houston, but let’s hope the Columbus Crew brings it once again next week in another exciting match. Although how can we fail? We just took our first win while away at DC United. On top of that, next weeks match is at home. Can you say perfect record at home? It’s been fun seeing a good number of high scoring winning games coming from The Crew. Oh and lets just end on this note — number one in the Eastern standings!
Not the start D.C. fans were expecting
By JOEL SANDERSON
This isn’t how I thought it would happen. I had visions of great things, or Supporters Shields and MLS Cups. I saw the historic potential. Now, I’m just excited about one thing – the 10-day rest DCU gets this week.
What makes this beginning of the season so debilitating is that it hasn’t been close. DC didn’t almost beat the Crew last week. No, DC was lucky to have scored at all with a lackadaisical attack and balls being given away too easily.
Of course, every time I flip out about DC I have to remind myself that, “hey, you don’t have to be good to make the MLS playoffs.” That’s not so much of a comfort though. I want DC to be good. I don’t want to spend this season listening to, reading about, and writing about “the most disappointing team in the MLS.” Before the season started, everyone seemed to have DC and Houston numbers one and two in the power rankings. Right…
Against the Crew, various people, including the commentators, tried to discuss how the team is different without Ben Olsen on the field. That’s a true statement, but he’s not the end all be all of DC because there are other good players on the roster, certainly enough to stay competitive. DC didn’t look competitive against the Crew, it looked lost.
It would be easy to start with Mr. Peratlta, but we’ll leave Gonzalo P out of it for the moment to all for a short rant.
Don’t these guys want to be out there? I know a few of them look excited and play hard every moment of every game, particularly Clyde Simms, but the team played like it was owed one here. Let’s go hire out the Richmond Kickers, at least they’d be fun to watch and would put every ounce of energy into the game. But not DC. Oh, no, that’d be too much work to close down the ball and give that extra Richie Williams/Dirk Kuyt type of effort. Talent-wise, DC stacks up, but where’s the passion? It wasn’t a close game. The Crew outplayed DC for 60 of the 90 minutes. DC outplayed the crew for about 10 and the other 20 are split. That’s no good folks. This isn’t the Harlem Globetrotters, this isn’t the Michael Jordan Bulls, this isn’t Chelsea versus Barnsley (oh wait…). You get the idea. You can’t just show up.
This team, playing as it has, wouldn’t be a shoo in to win the USL.
The quick view on the Crew game is simple, DC got outplayed, outsmarted and out-hustled. Peralta did look sloppy. Think back to that run by Robbie Rogers early in the game. It was one-on-one, Rogers didn’t even do anything, and yet he streaked past Peralta.
But the whole team was guilty. When balls are in the air in DC’s box, I assume that the other team is going to win the headers. When a ball gets slipped down the sideline, I assume that the other team is going to win the footrace. On offense, I still expect Fred’s brilliance and some clever moves and they come, but since there’s nobody interested in holding the ball, getting the ball up to that last third with space and number is rare.
The Crew are a good team. But it was a home game. The starters were pretty much on the field. And while a few guys played well, the team performance scarred their play so much that I’m just annoyed with everybody. Let’s move on before I blow a gasket.