Who can stop the Columbus Crew? The Kansas City Wizards couldn’t, becoming the latest victim of Sigi Schmid’s Crew express, which has rattled off four straight wins and established Columbus as the top team in MLS.
Yes, that still sounds strange to say but few signs point to it being a fluke. With a disciplined defense and dynamic offense, Columbus is playing its best soccer in years and has done so without having made any big-name acquisitions in the off-season.
The Wizards are starting to pay for Curt Onalfo’s confidence in his rookies. Between Roger Espinoza’s red card and Chance Myers’ costly mistake on Saturday, Kansas City’s first-rounders showed their inexperience as the Wizards continue to slide.
SBI Correspondents Rich Fidler and Mike Cross give us their takes on the match:
This Crew squad has a look not seen in years
By RICH FIDLER
The Columbus Crew continued their torrid start to the season when they dominated the first-half against visiting Kansas City to give themselves a two goal cushion and an eventual 2-1 home victory.
This is a team that most Crew fans haven’t seen since the first year in Crew Stadium when the likes of Brian McBride, Stern John and Brian Maisonneuve patrolled the field for the Black and Gold. The 5-1 start is the best in team history, and allows the Crew to jump to the top of the standings with 15 points. The Crew didn’t reach that plateau until July 7th last year with a victory over Real Salt Lake.
Last night the Crew were led by the ever fleet-of-foot Robbie Rogers on the wing and midfielders Adam Moffat and Brian Carroll, who clogged up the middle and didn’t allow Kansas City to get any rhythm in the first half.
Moffat, a young Scot who joined the Crew from USL2 last year, was instrumental is breaking up the Wizards attack in the middle. His small stature and funny accent rose above two Wizards to head home the first goal just four minutes in to the match.
Rogers constantly tormented rookie, and friend, Chance Meyers on the wing and would use his speed and miscommunication between Meyers and goalkeeper Kevin Hartman to score the game-winner. The player who fell in to Columbus’ lap in a weighted lottery last year used his speed and ability to strike the ball equally well with both feet to keep the visiting defense on its toes all night long.
Carroll was a rock in the midfield, allowing Moffat to race in to the attack at times, and his hard work went largely un-noticed. If there was a signing in the off-season that truly changed this team it was Sigi Schmid’s ability to unload temperamental forward Kei Kamara for a midfield leader he’s been looking for since his arrival in Columbus. Duncan Oughton is certainly that man, but his lack of health cannot be overlooked and the leadership position needed to be addressed, and it was.
Perhaps the only disappointing aspect of the game for the Crew and their front office, is the continued disappointment in the overall attendance at Crew Stadium. Certainly the most die-hard fans in Columbus have continued to support their squad in an incredible manor – especially from the conglomeration of supporters in the Nordecke who have been singled out by every player as making a huge statement.
Unfortunately it’s the rest of Columbus that evidently hasn’t taken notice of the hot start, as an attendance of just 10,447 was announced in the stadium last night. It’s time for those in the ticket department to take notice, you have three weeks until the next home game – I want to find myself firmly planted between some new fans at the game on May 24th, not sitting in my seat with enough room to spread out a blanket and take a nap like last night.
The Crew now head out on a two game road trip – first expansion side San Jose and then a visit to crazed BMO Field in Toronto when the team will face a side that’s much different than the one they defeated opening day.
Struggles to be expected on long road trip
By MIKE CROSS
In the interest of full disclosure I have to tell you that I wasn’t able to watch Saturday’s matchup between the Wizards and the Columbus Crew. Unfortunately real life sometimes gets in the way of our fan duties.
So by necessity my comments rely on written accounts of the game and my since I didn’t actually see it my perspective is based on how the game fits into the Wizards overall season.
It’s clear the Wizards are leaking goals again. Maybe it goes back to the youth movement in the back, but whatever it is it illustrates the unpredictable nature we’ve seen from these Wizards early in the season. Is it a curable problem? Any defense with Jimmy Conrad at its heart has a chance to be very good. Kevin Hartman while occasionally making heart stopping decisions is a leaner sharper goalkeeper than he was last year. Hartman is definitely top half of the leagues goalkeepers and if he can just cut down on some of those soft goals he’ll be in the top quarter by the end of the year. So the makings are there for a decent defense, the question will be can it develop in time for the Wizards to have a special season?
Before we start to wallow in a two-game losing streak, and a less than stellar last five games, let’s remember we’re in the midst of a six game road trip. To think that there wouldn’t be difficult times in a road trip that long is silly. What we need to judge this stretch of games by is how many points the Wizards come away with. Having won one and lost two the Wizards have gained three points from three games. At the beginning of this stretch I said KC needed to come away with at least six points for it to be a marginal success.
That’s setting the bar pretty low I realize, but you make your hay at home and hope to hold your own on the road. After the opening four game home stand the Wizards were averaging 1.75 points a game. That’s a decent number when projected over a whole season coming out to something like 52.5 points which would put a team in contention for the supporters shield most seasons. However that’s over thirty games and as we just discussed you have to play half the games on the road. That makes the home rate good but not great. If the Wizards averaged 1.75 points per home game and 1.0 points for road game they’d end up with 41 or so points. Probably good enough for the playoffs but not Coach Onalfo’s stated objective of home field in the playoffs.
The Wizard’s need to get through this first third of the season in a position to achieve their goals. Their young kids need to develop and the team needs time to jell. If the team comes through this stretch somewhere in the middle of the pack they will be in position to achieve their goals.