Let’s talk about the soccer.
While other incidents at the Revs-Crew match have garnered more attention, let’s take this moment to look back at the actual soccer match that took place. New England traveled to Columbus and put on a display of physical soccer that would have made the old Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia Flyers proud. Columbus, playing the role of the battered skillful squad, had few answers for the Revs approach, and no answers for New England goalkeeper Matt Reis.
The result is a three-way tie for first place in the East as the Revs continue doing well despite the absence of star striker Taylor Twellman.
SBI Correspondents Andrew Karl and Rich Fidler watched the action and share their perspectives on the match with us:
Road win caps perfect holiday weekend for Revs
By ANDREW KARL
Nothing beats a long weekend…except a long weekend that includes a Revolution match. This memorial day weekend has been the perfect opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, perfect the art of grilled meat, and catch up on some important things. I’ve been able to put a good dent into Grand Theft Auto IV, completely engorge myself on steak and bratwurst, and I was finally able to catch a Toulon Tournament game. With the Revs heading to Columbus to take on one of the league’s best teams, Saturday night was the cherry atop a holiday sunday.
As the match wore on and Columbus was able to carve out the better scoring chances of the day I was looking for a hero. The Revs needed someone to step up and lock the game down, either to secure the draw or pull out the win. In the end, while Kheli Dube’s goal settled the contest, I think it was Matt Reis who truly earned the points for New England.
Making several key saves, Reis was also well positioned to deal with the Crew attack all night. His one-handed stop on an Eddie Gaven header in the second half was nothing short of amazing. Not only was the keeper able to dive the opposite way, against his momentum, to save the header, Reis’ soft hands limited a soft rebound. NBA guys like Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash might have some soccer skill, but Matt Reis looked like a tight end working his six-yard box on Saturday night.
Revolution fans are used to Reis’ heroics, but one thing we’re not used to when it comes to our keeper is hair. Petr Cech may need a bright orange shirt to distract strikers, but the glare of Reis dome does the job just as well. I’m so used to his due, or lack thereof, that I didn’t even notice the subtle change in Reis’ appearance Saturday night. During a halftime interview, my girlfriend spotted the newest addition to the team: a scraggly soul patch. The line of the night goes to the lovely Stephanie, who chimed in with "looks like Reis has some pitch on his face." Is this a welcome facial growth? Did it provide the extra bit of soul that Matt Reis needed to coolly stonewall Columbus attackers Eddie Gaven, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, and Alejandro Moreno? I’m not sure of the patch’s effect on this most recent match, but I am sure that the whole team should grow playoff soul patches in October. Now that would be a fashion statement.
Just a few days ago I read that Taylor Twellman will miss 3-6 weeks with the ankle injury sustained at Chivas two weeks ago. Bad news, yes, but not horrible news. The Revolution’s done more than stay afloat without TT, and the forward partnership of Kheli Dube and Kenny Mansally shows promise. But then I heard that Mansally’s been called up to the Gambian national team. Terrific news for the striker, and I couldn’t be happier for him, but I am not looking forward to his absence. He’ll miss the next five games for New England, three of which will be at home. For Kenny, this means the chance to help his country qualify for the World Cup, for the fans, it means the chance to see Adam Cristman start for the next month….yippee.
Today the Revs find themselves with 19 points, tied with Chicago and Columbus at the top of the table. This position in the standings is a luxury at this early stage of the season though, and you won’t hear many bold predictions from me. While I’d like to say that I can smell the supporter’s shield just around the corner, it’s a long season and New England still has some injury concerns. When the pungent aroma of Abercrombie & Fitch cologne fills my nostrils, signalling Taylor Twellman’s return to the starting lineup, I’ll breathe easier…possibly well enough to predict a Revolution double in 2009.
A beautiful matchday spoiled
By RICH FIDLER
The Columbus Crew fell at home for the first time all year during the Memorial Day weekend thanks to a last minute penalty kick and follow up goal by New England’s Kheli Dube.
The afternoon and evening was a beautiful one in Columbus. The radiating sun leant itself to a few hours sitting in the parking lot drinking beer, cooking food and anticipating the match-up of two of the Eastern Conferences best teams in the young season. It was the first weekend all year where the weather really cooperated, when the sun and temperature both realized it was late spring – of course it didn’t last long and a hint of fall was back in the air just a day later.
The weather certainly helped fill the stadium; an announced crowd of over 15,000 were on hand to see the tussles between the Crew and Revolution. It’s a good sign for the Crew staff, as it is becoming apparent that those in Columbus will support a winner, and a winner Columbus has been so far this season.
The game was a battle of midfields, with Brian Carroll and Robbie Rogers doing the damage for the Crew. Carroll was breaking up plays in the middle while Rogers was tormenting Wells Thompson on the left-hand side of the field. So dangerous was Rogers that it lead to a "hack-a-shaq" philosophy from the Revolution. Anytime Rogers got the ball, instead of letting him run at them – the defenders would merely tackle Rogers hoping to shake him out of the game.
New England was led by all-league player Shalrie Joseph, who continues to show why he is one of the league’s best players – and aging veteran Steve Ralston who was a constant fixture for the Crew’s wing defenders. The midfielder was such a nuisance all game long that when he finally got a chance to take a corner kick from the Nordecke he wasn’t shower with just streamers, but he received a complimentary beer bath with bottles included. I say this as a joke, and I am sure the 33-year old enjoy the free booze, but it wasn’t funny and could easily turn dangerous – the tossing of streamers will need to be policed much better by supporters and stadium personnel if it’s to continue.
The game was decided in the final minute of regular time, when back-up left back Ezra Hendrickson – who’s even older than Ralston, tracked him along the top of the penalty area only to lazily reach in and step on the foot of the former Florida International midfielder. Center official Richard Heron, who had made some "interesting" calls throughout the night going both directions, had no choice but to point to the spot.
Joseph stepped up, and with the supporters group chanting Will Hesmer’s name in unison, the keeper dove to his left saving the well struck penalty. Yet Dube, who video showed a good 2-3 steps inside the penalty area as the ball was struck – a clear violation if there ever was one, was the first to the loose ball and he slammed it past a recovering Hesmer. It was a crucial blow for the Crew who had created more chances on the night only to see New England keeper Matt Reis step up to the challenge and made two glorious saves on the evening.
** A quick note about the video that has surfaced from the supporters section on Saturday night, which showed a bigot making vulgar comments and then dropping a racial slur to the celebrating Revolution players. In no way does anyone associated with the Columbus Crew make light of this situation and everything is being done from the front office down to the leadership of the supporters groups themselves to search out this person and have them banned from the stadium for eternity.