If you watched the San Jose-Columbus match last week it was pretty tough to figure out which was the expansion team and which was the team that started the 2008 season with a 6-1 record. The Earthquakes played inspired soccer on the road while the Crew increased its winless streak to four matches.
So what does the result really tell us? For San Jose, it told us that Ronnie O’Brien can still be a dominating player. For the Crew, the loss tells us that the team that rolled early in the season was playing well over its head.
SBI Correspondents Kevin Matthiessen and Rich Fidler watched his Earthquakes post their third win of the season and gave us his take on the result.
Earthquakes win a sight for sore eyes
By KEVIN MATTHIESSEN
Ah, Saturday was a good day indeed. Euro 2008, The Belmont Stakes, Baseball, and of course the ‘Quakes on HD all on tap. Like an open goal, the big screen TV stood begging for our viewing pleasure.
Now normally with all this candy available, I’d record them all and manage to watch some of them after the kids go to bed and before I fall asleep while the late night coffees no longer take effect. But on this fine day, my folks were in town visiting. And for me, that means two important things. 1) Omi’s going to watch the kids for me and 2) Opa’s going to sit in the same chair and watch TV with me all day long.
When 4:30PM rolled around, Opa and I were ready for the action. I know he’d never seen a soccer game in HD so I was hoping he’d freak out as much as I did when I first saw a soccer game on HD. The thing I forgot is that his 70+ year old eyeballs can’t really tell the difference. So unfortunately for him it didn’t matter much.
When the game started, I was quite happy with the lineup Frank Yallop drew up. He slotted Kelly Gray in the d-mid role moving Ramiro Corrales out wide left. He also rewarded John Cunliffe the start up top alongside Ryan Johnson to the expensive of newcomer Jovan Kirvoski.
In open play, I was very impressed by some precise one touch pass-work by Ned Grabavoy, Ramiro Corrales, Ronnie O’Brien, Cunliffe, and Johnson. But I wouldn’t get my hopes up. It seems like no matter how good or bad the Quakes look this season, they’d find a way to make a mistake or get a bad break to dig an early hole on the road.
Then an unexpected and shocking event occurred: An early goal by the Quakes. "Yeeeeeeessssss!", I cried after Johnson powered his way behind a Crew defender to get his head on the end of a nearly perfect O’Brien cross. In only the tenth minute, the Quakes were up 1-0 on the road.
Though the ‘Quakes looked very good, I’d still not get my hopes up too much. After all, the ‘Quakes managed to lose to these same Crew after going up 1-0 at home no less. So, there I was actually still hoping for a tie! Then in the 60th minute, Corrales got on the end of another pin-point cross from who else but Irishman Ronnie O’Brien to make it 2-0. Like the happy-go-lucky bartender at your local Irish pub, O’Brien was serving them up cold and frothy to his teammates. The only difference with this, his fourth helper of the season was apparently he served up a shot of Captain Morgan’s. We ‘Quakes fans will take whatever you serve us, Ronnie. Next time, how about four shots of Bush Mills?
As it turns out, the Earthquakes get the win and we’ll take it. So the roller coaster ride for ‘Quakes fans continues. And that’s OK. It’s much, much more enjoyable than the submarine rides that recent expansion teams have been offering.
In conclusion, I was very impressed with the play of pretty much the entire team. They made few mistakes and were quick-thinking when it came to ball distribution. This to me is the most important aspect to have collectively. And when a team thinks faster than their opponents, with a bit of skill, will surely win.
Now for us ‘Quakes fans, it’s time to get back in the waiting line we call the work week.
Boos have replaced cheers at Crew Stadium
By RICH FIDLER
The Columbus Crew hosted expansion club San Jose over the weekend, with the Black and Gold faithful looking to end its’ 4 game scoreless streak, but it wasn’t meant to be as the post and Joe Cannon stood strong and the Crew fell 2-0 for the third consecutive game.
San Jose comes in to Columbus having only won twice in their previous 13 visits, and for fans the feeling was they wouldn’t add to this total – how could an expansion team come to Columbus Crew Stadium and pull off the impossible? Quick simple really, continue to keep Robbie Rogers in check by fouling him – and get the ball out wide Ronnie O’Brien and let him send constant service in to the area.
Teams have keyed in on the young Rogers since the Crew’s torrid start to the season. It’s a simple process really, by fouling him and not letting him turn the corner with his blazing speed, it limits what the young winger can to do impact the game. He is no longer being allowed to run at defenders with the ball at his feet, but Rogers and his head coach should recognize this. Moving off the ball and playing balls to space could limit the "Hack-A-Rogers" defense – it is after all how Rogers scored his last two Crew goals.
The problem is when you have MLS officials, who are spotty at best and downright awful most other times, the "Hack-A-Rogers" defense often goes unpunished for long stretches – though two fouls from James Riley on the night saw the former New England defender sent to the showers to join Brad Evans. Evans who shown a red card for a justifiably yellow-card worthy offense in the 80th minute, I’m still wondering how we justify making some of these officials full-time paid gigs – hell, even the best FIFA officials are still bankers, lawyers and garbage men in their spare time. Why is it so hard for a young upstart league to find quality men to control a match?
With a scoreless streak extending back to their 3-2 road victory against San Jose in early May, it’s safe to say that Sigi Schmid needs to consider changing his line-up. The one forward dimension with a floating Guillermo Barros Schelotto in support isn’t working, despite numerous opportunities the team has struggled mightily to find the back of the net.
The addition of Emmanuel Ekpo on Saturday gave glimpses of what the young Nigerian adds to the attack and his place in the starting eleven should continue. Although perhaps it’s time to rest the weary legs of Schelotto who has looked pedestrian during the scoreless streak, the upcoming toll of hot summers evenings and targeted fouling will no doubt have the former Boca Juniors man longing for a return to Argentina.
The Crew fans showed their own frustration by the end of the night when a smattering of boos were directed to the Crew as the teams left the field following the final whistle. It was a difficult loss to take, their second in a row at home – but remember Crew fans, we’re still sitting in second place with six wins on the season and we’re going on to the road to Kansas City