The View from Our Crew

Stoppage Time Showdown

COLUMBUS, OH - July 25, 2010 - Saturday evening would feature one of the most anticipated matches of the MLS season. Toronto FC would make the trip to Crew Stadium for the third game of the 2009 Trillium Cup series, which has resulted in two draws so far this season. That makes this match even more important as it will be the deciding factor in the rivalry. The Crew looks to be without Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who is recovering from a hamstring strain. Fellow forward Alejandro Moreno would make the substitute bench despite a groin strain that kept him out of the lineup against Real Salt Lake. Midfielder Robbie Rogers and defender Chad Marshall would continue to be absent from Columbus because of their participation in the Gold Cup. Toronto FC would be without midfielder Sam Cronin (Gold Cup) and forward Fuad Ibrahim (U.S. U-20).

Forward Ali Gerba, who played well for the Canadian National Team in the Gold Cup, would make his MLS debut. This was considered to be a significant move for Toronto, signing an established striker with international credentials. His experience and strong skill set would prove to be a difference maker in this match.

The Gerba signing was not the move that had dominated the headlines in Canada. Toronto FC made a very lucrative contract offer to midfielder Julian de Guzman several weeks ago. The club has not received an answer as of Saturday evening, leading to much speculation regarding his future. We originally reported that his strong preference was a return to Europe, particularly Spain. The money has to be enticing, even though the contract length and amount is of some debate. It is a considerable payday for the young midfielder from any perspective. The offer is significant especially for a MLS team; it is clear that Toronto is trying to make a splash with their Designated Player allocation.

The Crew looked to have an early advantage during intense play. Columbus would have five shots and two corner kicks in the first 20 minutes. Toronto FC would make an early substitution in the 22nd minute with defender Marco Velez coming in for midfielder Amado Guevara. The cards began to flow early in the match with Toronto's Carl Robinson (27th minute) and the Crew's Brian Carroll (29th minute) each receiving a yellow card.

The action would ratchet up even further in the 32nd minute with a brilliant goal from midfielder Eddie Gaven. The assists would go to midfielders Duncan Oughton and Danny O'Rourke, who helped set up the play with a series of passes. Toronto would answer almost immediately in the 35th with a goal by midfielder Dwayne De Rosario, who was assisted by defender Marvell Wynne and midfielder Pablo Vitti.

Columbus defender Gino Padula would receive a yellow card in the 39th minute; this would be followed by a Toronto breakaway in the 41st minute. The Crew defense would be able to drop back and defend, taking away a Toronto opportunity to score. Fortunately, the Toronto attacker would not see Ali Gerba out in the open and completely undefended. Halftime would come with the consensus suggesting that the first 45 minutes were relatively even.

Gerba would indeed make an impact as the second half began. The newest member of the squad, assisted by Chad Barrett, scored a goal in the 49th minute to put Toronto ahead 2-1. He would threaten again in the 55th minute before the breakaway was squashed by an aggressive Crew defense. Toronto continued its push forward in the coming minutes, putting pressure on the Crew to make a tactical move. An aggressive move by Crew goalkeeper Will Hesmer denied yet another opportunity for Gerba in the 63rd minute.

Midfielder Duncan Oughton would leave the game in the 64th minute in favor of speedy Emmanuel Ekpo. A minute later Ekpo would send a solid cross into the box, but nothing transpired. Striker Steven Lenhart, who had a goal and an assist against RSL, would take a chance in the 70th with a high strike that went off course. Ekpo would take a shot of his own in the 71st, but Toronto keeper Stefan Frei made the save.

Toronto would respond with an opportunity of their own. Pablo Vitti would see his shot bounce off the cross bar to the right of a diving Will Hesmer in the 74th minute. Toronto was literally inches away from a 3-1 lead.

A 2-2 score would become reality with a goal in the 76th minute by Steven Lenhart, who was assisted by Jason Garey and Brian Carroll. Lenhart was able to tap in a soft shot over Stefan Frei, who was sliding in to defend the goal. The Crew offense seemed to receive a boost with the entrance of Ekpo, whose energy and quick moves proved to be quite an asset in the attack.

The closing minutes of the minutes were particularly tense for both clubs. Both sides would have opportunities, but the difference would come in stoppage time as defender Frankie Hejduk delivered a perfect cross to striker Jason Garey; who would send a header into the goal to seal the 3-2 victory for the Crew. This single goal helped break three records and clinch the Trillium Cup for Columbus. The Crew now own the longest regular season home unbeaten streak, the longest regular season road unbeaten streak, and the longest overall unbeaten streak in MLS history.

Fans and players alike talked about the intensity and excitement of the match. Captain Frankie Hejduk added his perspective on the evening. "It was very 2008 MLS Crew; it really was.. Vintage actually. Coming from behind, battling, and making the game interesting. Never giving up. How many times last year were we down 1-0, 2-1, 1-1? And we came back and won it just with our hearts. I think that it is what we did tonight."

Duncan Oughton, known for his pinpoint passing and intelligent play, added his own comments on the important victory. "When we've got some key players away, the guys are doings well. Steve Lenhart and Jason Garey are stepping up and scoring goals; defenders are coming in and playing well. It's good that everyone is contributing. Six points from the last two games is nice. We have put ourselves in a good spot."

The return of Schelotto could make this dedicated, team-centered Crew even more dangerous. The Colorado Rapids will have their hands full when the Crew travel to Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Saturday, August 1st.

Garey the Great

COLUMBUS, OH - July 18, 2009 - Two depleted squads went into battle on Saturday night at Crew Stadium. National team obligations, injuries, and suspensions all contributed to the lack of players available for the match. It became such an issue that both squads had only 6 substitutes on the bench; Real Salt Lake had two goalkeepers on the bench. No one knew where the goals would come from, but they did come.

The Crew would be missing their star, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who was listed as questionable with a hamstring strain. Midfielder Adam Moffat and forward Alejandro Moreno would also miss the match with injuries, while midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo would serve a suspension due to yellow card accumulation. Other absences for the Crew included defender Chad Marshall and midfielder Robbie Rogers, who were playing with the U.S. National Team at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Striker Fabian Espindola would serve a suspension for Real Salt Lake with three others playing in the Gold Cup. Striker Will Johnson (Canada) and midfielders Jean Alexandre (Haiti) and Kyle Beckerman (U.S.) were called into duty for their respective national teams. Johnson played superbly against El Salvador at Crew Stadium less than two weeks ago.

The Crew quickly displayed some offensive fireworks despite the changes in the lineup. Forward Steven Lenhart scored in the 23rd minute getting a nice shot past RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando. Jason Garey would add another in the 31st minute, scoring off a deflection from a Lenhart header. The Crew would enter halftime with a solid 2-0 lead. Some skeptics questioned how well the Crew would fare without Schelotto, but the score tells the story. Salt Lake would have a 9-7 advantage in shots in the first half, but Columbus put more on target (6-2) and scored the two goals.

Halftime brought about more of the same. In the 52nd minute, The Crew made it a 3-0 lead over Real Salt Lake. Garey would come up with his second of the night with assists by midfielder Duncan Oughton and forward Steven Lenhart. Oughton set up the play with an pinpoint pass to Lenhart, who sent a backheel pass to Garey, who scored with a strike to the back of the net. Garey and Lenhart excelled playing in and around the box as the two forwards accounted for all of the team's goals.

This match showed how far Steven Lenhart has come since joining the club. Lenhart's play was once described as uncontrolled, uneven, and raw. It is now clear that 'the sky is the limit" for the young striker. This performance included a goal and an unbelievable assist. This is just the beginning, according to Head Coach Robert Warzycha. "I can tell you that he is going to play better; that wasn't his best game this season. He can be quicker, he is going to be making better decisions."

RSL keeper Rimando looked particularly vulnerable, manning the goal behind a defense that became porous at the inopportune times. Real Salt Lake would finally get on the board in the 75th minute with a goal by midfielder Raphael Cox, who was assisted by defender Chris Wingert and forward Pablo Campos. It would be the first career goal in MLS for Cox, a fourth round selection in the 2009 SuperDraft. Wingert started the play by delivering a pass that deflected off Campos and bounced back to Cox.

Many were disappointed with the play of RSL captain-defender Nat Borchers and midfielder Clint Mathis. Borchers seemed to be out of position when it mattered most for his backline, while Mathis had little impact on the game overall. Much more was expected from Mathis, who served with the U.S. National Team from 1998-2005. More was expected from this lineup as well, considering the 16 shots that were taken during the match. Only five could be considered on target, but that should have brought more than a single goal for the visiting team.

Real Salt Lake had clear opportunities to take control of the game. A failure to execute those opportunities came to the chagrin of Head Coach Jason Kreis. "I thought we created the right numbers of chances, no doubt about it. There were some pretty clear-cut chances as well. It was a difficult night for us."

Columbus looks to break a MLS record when they face Toronto FC at home on Saturday, July 25. The Crew tied the MLS record for the longest home unbeaten streak with the win over Salt Lake. Toronto FC, led by the midfield tandem of De Rosario and Amado Guevara, will bring thousands of passionate fans to Crew Stadium with the hopes of winning the Trillium Cup. The first two matches between the clubs this season both ended in a 1-1 draw.

Crew Play Fire to Scoreless Draw on the Road

BRIDGEVIEW, ILJuly 11, 2009 - The Columbus Crew drew with the Chicago Fire, 0-0, Saturday night in an Eastern Conference showdown at TOYOTA Park.

Guillermo Barrows Schelotto took the Crew's first dangerous attempt in the 13th minute when midfielder Eddie Gaven headed the ball into the box. Guarded closely by Brown, Schelotto spun and shot, but Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch was able to barely get his fingers to it and make the save.

William Hesmer came up huge for the Crew in the first half with six saves. In the 39th minute, Chicago had one of its best chances of the half. Fire forward Brian McBride beat the Crew’s Frankie Hejduk, while running toward goal and crossed the ball into the box. Chicago midfielder Marco Pappa got to the ball, found some space and drilled the ball into the center of goal and Hesmer's arms.

Forward Steven Lenhart nearly put the Crew in front in the 73rd minute when he headed a long pass into the net just before colliding with Busch, but was called offside.

Epic Battle for First

COLUMBUS, OH - July 4, 2009 - Expectations were high for this holiday matchup as first place D.C. United faced off against the second place Columbus Crew. The Crew, coming off a U.S. Open Cup loss against the Rochester Rhinos, had a chance to move to the top of the Eastern standings for the first time this season. Columbus is led by June's MLS Player of the Month Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Schelotto, a true leader on the field, still leads the league with 10 goals.

Several key players from both squads were absent due to national team obligations in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Defender Chad Marshall (U.S.) and midfielder Robbie Rogers (U.S.) would be missing from the Crew lineup, while United was without Dejan Jakovic (Canada) and Santino Quaranta (U.S.). Injuries might have been a factor for both squads. Midfielder Adam Moffat (hamstring strain) would be out for the Crew, while forwards Jaime Moreno (hamstring injury) and Luciano Emilio (bone bruise) would miss time for D.C. Fred, who regularly plays in the United midfield, would start the game on the substitute bench due to a adductor strain.

Columbus did a nice job pushing forward in the first thirty minutes, but the defense seemed to struggle in transition. Midfielder Christian Gomez,who also spent time with the Colorado Rapids, put D.C. in front 1-0 in the 33rd minute. Gomez was able to turn a loose ball into a salvageable shot that made it past Crew keeper Will Hesmer. It was only a matter of time before one got by Hesmer, who was under constant pressure the entire night.

The Crew allowed six shots on goal in the first half, which is almost unheard of for this stingy defensive unit. However, the team would allow a season-high eight shots on goal by the 52nd minute. Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha looked to make a tactical switch out of the locker room, sending in "super sub" Steven Lenhart for defender Andy Iro, who has seen only limited time this season. The move paid dividends as Lenhart and midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo joined together to assist Alejandro Moreno with a goal in the 59th minute. Moreno, who now has three goals on the season, was able to put the shot into the right corner of the net past United keeper Josh Wicks. This was one of the only opportunities for the Crew to score and they took advantage.

The D.C. offense continued to push the ball up the field, pushing the Crew "bend but don't break" defense to its brink. An onslaught of 22 shots was allowed by Columbus, but no more shots made it to the back of the net. The match ended in a tie, even though United was the more dominant squad in almost every respect. D.C. United Head Coach Tom Soehn agreed, saying "We had the bulk of the play, the bulk of the chances. We got to put a couple of those chances away. We walk away from this one disappointed."

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