That Columbus Crew team that tore up MLS the first month of the season just might be back. Okay, so it was just one win against a shaky Colorado squad, but seeing Robbie Rogers work his magic and Emmanuel Ekpo run rampant sure made the Crew look pretty dangerous.
Unfortunately for Rapids fans, the under-achiving and points-dropping squad they have grown accustomed to in Colorado also appears to be back. After a good start to the season Colorado has started to slump badly, with just one point to show for their past three matches.
SBI correspondents Brant Guillory and Craig de Aragon took in the action and shared their thoughts on the match with us:
Win puts Crew back on track
By BRANT GUILLORY
Are The Crew back on the winning track? Maybe, maybe not. One thing is for sure, The Crew promises to remain an exciting team for the rest of the season. With an interesting blend of seasoned veterans (Schelotto, Hejduk) and exciting youngsters (Rogers, Ekpo, Iro) the pitch in Columbus will not lack for action. The challenge for the Black & Gold has been blending the old and new into an effective, cohesive unit.
When Columbus brings its A-game, the veterans show their class as they think two moves ahead of the opponent, and the youngsters speed and touch baffles defenses. Unfortunately, when the veterans look "old" instead of "experienced" the kids need to pick up the slack. When the younger players’ inexperience and frustrated shows, they need the vets to calm them down and regain their composure. When the 30-somethings look old and the kids get vexed in the same game… well, then San Jose beats Columbus at Crew Stadium.
This week, however, Rogers and Ekpo looked like a track team, and Iro, Marshall, and Carroll combined to form a central-defense-clogging forest of bodies that Colorado was challenged to penetrate. Schelotto was once again the conductor of a symphony of brilliant diagonal sprints and deft through-balls. Moreno played the workhorse role to a hilt and forced the Rapids to chase him about the offensive third. A 2-1 scoreline could easily have been 4-1 had The Crew taken a few more shots, instead of that one… more… pass… ugh!
It wasn’t all good news. Danny O’Rourke remains a hard-working talented player in search of a position. Having been bumped first by Brian Carroll, he’s now been displaced to the flanks by Andy Iro, where he might concede fewer penalty kicks and give the rest of the defenders out there an opportunity to catch up to his league-leading-and-it-ain’t-close four. The challenge, of course, is that he’s leaning yet *another* new position. Evans is a solid contributor in relief of the injured Adam Moffat, but his connection with Carroll is taking time to develop, and best linkage for The Crew in the attack does not flow through the central midfielders, but through the wingers.
One of the biggest improvements The Crew have shown this year, though, is in mental toughness. They’ve already stormed back to capture games, and points, when teams fought back – the 4-3 shootout with Chivas USA, and the 3-2 win at San Jose as examples. Last year, The Crew would’ve retreated into a sullen, sulking shell after Colorado’s goal, and tried to gut out a tie rather than fight for the win. This year, though, the Black & Gold took Colorado’s goal in stride, and their confidence never wavered. They went back to work, and chipped away at the Rapids, until the inevitable game-winner came. No one looked around for help, waiting for another player to take charge. Rogers, Ekpo, Evans, and Schelotto turned upfield, lowered their heads, and took the game right at Colorado. Ekpo happened to be the player whose moment resulted in the goal, but Crew fans could feel that *someone* was going to break through, it was just a matter of time.
Back to their winning ways, Columbus has now powered in 8 goals in 3 games, scored by 6 different players, and taken 7 of 9 available points since their uninspired fiasco against the ‘Quakes. The roster remains in flux with So and Hernandez released, and the front office still pursuing a striker (won’t you come home McHead?!). But any new players looking to break into the lineup are facing a serious fight for playing time ahead of Rogers, Marshall, Hejduk, Schelotto, Carroll, or Moreno, especially when the depth chart includes Gaven, Oughton, Padula, Garey, and Miglioranzi. Already out of the US Open Cup, and not cool enough for the SuperLiga, Columbus need only focus on their MLS schedule and weather the absences that will come with Olympic team call-ups.
Where does it end up? No MLS team has ever had as many points at the All-Star break and missed the playoffs. After three years of watching everyone else play the end-of-season tournament, the Black & Gold seem well-positioned to forge forward from here.
Slump looks too familiar to Rapids fans
By CRAIG de ARAGON
The Rapids proved again that if anything, they’re consistent. By taking one point out of their last four games, including losing 2-1 this week at Columbus, the summer U-turn in form has officially arrived.
The real test of a supporters’ fan-hood is if he or she will stay through the bad times. Unfortunately, the past few summers, Rapids die-hards have felt as tried as Job in the Bible. We haven’t persisted through the loss of our children or wealth, but we have endured through summers of poor performance and mediocrity. We’ve seen our position in the table slide more than if we had landed on the 87th square in “Chutes and Ladders.” (Look it up, it’s really far) We’ve tolerated summer swoons of scoreless soccer, and the true die-hards have maintained. But why?
There’s a saying: “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” Is it because we’re insane? Possibly. What else could explain expecting a Rapids player to score double digit goals when only one player has done so in the past four years? What else could explain expecting the Rapids to finish atop the conference and win the Supporters’ Shield, when they have never finished above third in the conference in their entire history? I wish I knew why we keep coming back, why we keep looking for things to change in the spring and then being sucker-punched by disappointment in the summer. Is the snow in the Denver winter just shavings off the eraser that is deleting our minds of the memories of the previous year? I just don’t know.
What I do know is that I was
excited for this game because of the return of Bouna Coundoul and the hope that the Rapids might turn it around. So much so that I kept singing in my head “My Bouna’s back and you’re going to be in trouble…hey now, hey now…my Bouna’s back”. Bouna did come back and he made a difference. Plus he wasn’t wearing capri pants, which was already an upgrade from Preston Burpo. The return of Bouna was spoiled by the exodus of Christian Gomez from the line up. The midfield really stuttered without the injured playmaker. The boys in burgundy showed fight, they came back from a deficit, they almost grinded out a point. However, moral victories don’t get you into the playoffs. But to a fan there’s always the next game, and by midweek all us loyalists will once again drink the Rapids’ absinthe and expect a victory this weekend. Â¡Salud!