The View from Our Crew

Lots of Opportunities

COLUMBUS, OH - March 27, 2010 - The Crew started their fifteenth MLS season with the first leg of the Trillium Cup against arch rival Toronto FC. They would have Toronto's number once again, sending the Canadian club home with a 2-0 loss behind goals from Andy Iro and Guillermo Barros Schelotto.

Both clubs would enter the regular season with some injury concerns. Columbus would be without rookie defender Shaun Francis (ankle sprain), goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum (hip surgery), and defenders Chad Marshall (hamstring strain), and Jed Zayner (knee strain). Toronto would miss the play of defender Emmanuel Gomez (bone bruise), forward Chad Barrett (foot surgery), and midfielder Jacob Peterson (knee surgery). Ty Harden would make the start for TFC even though he was listed as questionable with a knee contusion.

Gary L. Moody Sr., International Soccer NetworkThe Crew look to build off their success of last season when they claimed a second Supporters' Shield by way of a 13-7-10 record. Columbus has only improved their squad, keeping their core players in place and adding a few players of note.

Toronto is looking to improve upon their 2009 record of 10-11-9 and finally beat the Crew. Toronto, under the leadership of new coach Preki, has been busy making changes to their roster. Four moves in 48 hours is quite a frenzied pace, the biggest being the trade of defender Marvell Wynne to Colorado for midfielder Nick LaBrocca and a draft pick. Toronto will surely benefit from a full season from their Designated Player, Julian de Guzman.

Things would be competitive, but rather vanilla, from the start. Both sides were trying to assert their dominance with little success. The Crew would earn two early corner kicks in the 9th and 10th minute. The first was cleared by a Toronto defender; the second was knocked out of the box by Toronto keeper Stefan Frei.

A potential opportunity came for the Crew in the 19th as Robbie Rogers broke away, but was then called offsides. Another offsides call would stall the Crew attack in the 25th minute.

Things would change for Columbus in the 29th minute as young defender Andy Iro sent a header into the left side of the goal. Guillermo Barros Schelotto would get the assist on the play.

Schelotto would get an opportunity of his own in the 37th, but was tripped up by the Toronto keeper. Toronto would go on the attack minutes later, but the Crew defense held firm. The Crew would threaten again in the 43rd minute when a Rogers cross almost turned into a Lenhart goal. The first half would come to a close with the score remaining 1-0 to the Crew.

Columbus moved quickly coming out of the locker room, going on the attack in the 47th minute. Toronto would counter and charge toward goal. A slight touch off a diving Will Hesmer sent a surefire TFC shot inches outside of the goal. Adam Moffat would break away in the 49th, going 1v1 with Frei, but the keeper wasn't troubled by a weak kick. The Crew's Eddie Gaven would push forward on his own moments later, but was blanketed by Toronto captain Jim Brennan.

Rogers would take on the TFC defense all by himself in the 58th, trying to play "keep away" with the opposing defenders. Eventually reinforcements would come for Toronto before Rogers could take a solid shot at the goal. Columbus would continue to apply pressure on the opposing squad. The visitors would try to create a change with their substitutions, bringing in Amadou Sanyang for Argentine defender Martin Saric in the 66th minute.

Toronto would send a ball into the box a minute later, but an aggressive move by Hesmer cleared it out of danger. However, he took down two other players in the process, including a Crew defender.

Another Crew opportunity came in the 75th as Rogers beat his man and made his way toward the goal. A slick pass was sent in the direction of Steven Lenhart, who appeared to be pulled down in the box. There was no call and the decision was contested by the home fans.

Rogers would continue to break through the Toronto back line in the 83rd, but his hard shot was deflected by Frei. Schelotto would put the game away in the 86th, taking advantage of the keeper being down outside the box. A collision between Danny O' Rourke and Stefan Frei created an opportunity for a shot from the Crew's star.

Gino Padula and Jason Garey would enter the game late with the match already decided. While the score could easily have been 4-0 or 5-0, the Crew are happy with the 2-0 result. "The first win in the first game is always good," Head Coach Robert Warzycha commented. Warzycha also praised the play of his keeper, who led the defensive effort to keep TFC scoreless.

The performance of Robbie Rogers was particularly impressive; the talented midfielder was able to create chances and consistently cause fits for the opposing defense. "I just used my speed. Last year at this time I was injured. I came back and I didn't have my legs," Rogers continued. "It is nice to go through preseason and January camp and feel good and strong. I think it shows when I am on and off the ball."

Everyone agreed that the matches versus Toluca FC helped the Crew prepare for the start of the season. While other teams played colleges and universities, Columbus was taking on one of the premier clubs in all of Mexico. A similar lineup from the Crew played well against Toronto FC. All and all it was simply a great start for the Columbus Crew. They hope to continue their success with a road game against FC Dallas on April 10 before returning home to face RSL on April 24.

Game Photos from Toronto FC vs. Columbus Crew

Game Photos from U.S. U-17 National Team vs. Crew Soccer Academy U-17/U-18

Columbus Crew Starting Lineup: GK William Hesmer, DEF Frankie Hejduk (C), DEF Eric Brunner, DEF Andy Iro, DEF Danny O'Rourke, MID Eddie Gaven, MID Brian Carroll, MID Adam Moffat, MID Robbie Rogers, FWD Steven Lenhart, FWD Guillermo Barros Schelotto

Toronto FC Starting Lineup: GK Stefan Frei, DEF Nana Attakora, DEF Jim Brennan (C), DEF Nick Garcia, DEF Ty Harden, MID Martin Saric, MID Julian de Guzman, MID Sam Cronin, MID Gabe Gala, FWD Dwayne De Rosario, FWD O' Brian White

Crew Soccer Academy Squad to Face U-17 National Team

COLUMBUS, OH - March 16, 2010 - The two-time-defending MLS Supporters’ Shield-winning Columbus Crew announced today that the Crew Soccer Academy 17/18 squad – which earned a third place finish out of the best 64 teams in the country at the inaugural U.S. Soccer Development Academy Finals in 2008 – will face the U.S. Under-17 National Team in a youth friendly prior to the Crew’s First Kick match against Trillium Cup-rival Toronto FC at Crew Stadium on March 27. 

The match, which kicks off at 1 p.m., is part of a First Kick doubleheader and fans can gain entry to the youth friendly between CSA and the U.S. Under-17s with a ticket to the Crew’s First Kick match against Toronto FC, which kicks off later that day at 4 p.m. 

“Playing the U-17 National Team in Crew Stadium is a terrific opportunity and stage for both our model in general and our CSA 17/18s in particular,” said Andrew Arthurs, the Crew’s VP of Soccer Business Development. “We are extremely excited to host the 17s for four days of programming, and we know our players are very grateful and eager for the chance to compete against the highest level in the United States.”

Fans can purchase tickets for Crew First Kick 2010 at the Crew Stadium Box Office, all central Ohio Ticketmaster retail locations, via Ticketmaster phone at 800-745-3000 and on-line at TheCrew.com and Ticketmaster.com. Fans can also still become Crew Soccer Nation members by purchasing full-season ticket packages or partial plans, starting as low as $95 for 5-Packs. Group tickets are also available for all 15 home games. All ticket packages or plans are available through TheCrew.com and 614-447-CREW. 

The match against CSA is the first in a 10-game tour for the U.S. U-17 National Team from March until May, which features matches against five Academy clubs affiliated with MLS clubs – including the Crew Soccer Academy – and five other Development Academy opponents. The wide-ranging tour kicks off the national squad’s early stages of preparation for the 2011 CONCACAF U-17 Championship and the subsequent 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup. 

“Whenever we have the chance to play against one of the older Development Academy teams, it helps our younger players a lot,” said U-17 head coach Wilmer Cabrera. “That is very positive for our players because the demands are greater, the speed of the game is faster, it makes the game harder and they have more responsibilities and can improve their level of play." 

Crew Signs 2010 MLS SuperDraft Selection Shaun Francis

COLUMBUS, OH - March 12, 2010 - The Columbus Crew announced today that it has signed defender Shaun Francis to a developmental contract. Per club and league policy, no further terms of the deal were disclosed. 

Francis was selected by the Crew in the fourth round (No. 63 overall) of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft after a three-year career at Lindsey Wilson College (Ky.). While at Lindsey Wilson, Francis totaled 61 appearances, while scoring seven goals and tallying nine assists. During his senior season, he captained the Blue Raiders to the 2009 NAIA National Championship, while totaling three goals and four assists. He was also named to the All Mid-South Conference First Team in 2008. 

Francis will fill one of the Crew’s developmental roster spots and as a native of Jamaica, he will also occupy one of the club’s international player slots.

Chase Neidig, president of Tourbeau Sports Group, was able to provide some insight into the signing. "Shaun is a perfect fit for the style Columbus likes to play. He is a very smart, controlled defensive outside back who loves to push up the field into the attack," Neidig commented.

"Throughout this year's National Championships in Fresno, CA, it was clearly evident Francis possessed the skills and mental capacity to make it at the next level. And the Crew definitely picked up a sleeper in Francis in this year's draft," Neidig continued. "Lindsey Wilson, is a perennial powerhouse in the NAIA, and Head Coach Ray Wells does a fantastic job developing players for a professional future."

Breakout Game for Lenhart

COLUMBUS, OH - March 9, 2010 - The Columbus Crew fell behind two goals to the Mexican side Toluca Tuesday night in the first half. With physical play and two goals from Steven Lenhart, the Crew tied the ‘Diablos Rojos’ in front on 4,402 at Crew Stadium in the first leg of the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.

“I thought the game was pretty good overall,” Columbus Crew head coach Robert Warzycha said confidently about his team’s performance.

Photo Credit: Carol Estrella/ISNSoccer.comThe Crew got the rust off the spikes early as they pushed for the opening goal early. Several chances ensued, but none better than Steven Lenhart’s ninth minute right footed shot in the box that was knocked out by Toluca’s keeper, Alfredo Talavera.

The Red Devils would strike first, though, as they used the counter attack to perfection; a long pass to Antonio Naelson caught the Crew off-guard. The Toluca midfielder feinted two different times outside of the box, used Crew Danny O’Rourke as a shield and put the Mexican side up, 1-nil as he slid the ball past a diving Will Hesmer.          
The Crew looked for ideas to get their equalizer, and the right foot of Adam Moffat almost sealed the deal. Moffat rocketed two close shots to the Toluca goal in only a small time frame, first in the 26th minute that ran just far left of the net, then in the 32nd minute that Talavera had to push away. The Crew again would find the wrong side of the net as Eddie Gaven had an open shot in the 38th minute that was again, wide left.

“It felt good in practice before the game,” Moffat said of his shot. “I knew if I got a little space I was going to take the shot.”

Toluca was able to orchestrate a fantastic goal before the end of the half to take the demanding 2-nil lead. A Vladimir Marin cross that was headed by Crew defender Eric Brunner, who was challenged by Toluca’s Raul Nava, set up a 25-yard golaso by forward Isaac Brizuela. Brizuela, who was wide open, put a rocket shot into the upper left hand corner of the net, past Hesmer. Hesmer had no chance at saving the shot.

“Toluca is a good team and they punished us in the first half,” Warzycha said. “I am giving credit to (Brizuela), because (the shot) was amazing.”

Columbus looked to have their passes down throughout the first half, but from time to time coughed up the unnecessary ball. In all, the Crew put just one shot on goal in the half, versus Toluca’s three.

“At the half we talked about shortening up the field, because we were giving up too much space,” the Crew coach said. “I think that we corrected that in the second half.”

The MLS side came out roaring in the second half and had more key opportunities early. Just five minutes in, Robbie Rogers had a shot in the box that Talavera had to deal with quickly.

Columbus made sure that the Diablos Rojos knew that the Crew were not going down without a fight, literally. In the 57th minute, while fighting for the ball, Crew defender Gino Padula gave Toluca’s Brizuela a forearm shiver that resulted in the Mexican having a cut to his eye. Shoving, pushing, and name calling ensued as the Jamaican referee Courtney Campbell was able to separate the sides, but only for a few minutes.

“I was worried after the play,” Brizuela said in Spanish about his cut, “but after the doctor examined my eye, I only needed it cleaned and some surgical tape.”

Tensions flared, again in the 63rd, as Moffat blatantly ran into Brizuela and the Toluca side took much offense to it. The two sides met, but this time Toluca’s Marin got a yellow card for his physical nature in the mêlée. He would eventually subbed off in the 78th minute, possibly to save him from accumulating his second yellow and a suspension of the return leg.

“Because the ref was not making the calls,” the Colombian said through a translator, “it was up to the players to keep the pace of the game and to make sure they were responding accordingly to the rough play.”

The Crew pulled one back as Emmanuel Ekpo played a high ball into the box, that Steven Lenhart chested to himself, then half volleyed the ball into the top of the net. Crew got their equalizer in the 66th minute and made it a series again.

Crew head coach Robert Warzycha used his three subs in quick succession as he brought in Emilio Renteria (for Ekpo) in the 72nd, Kevin Burns (for Moffat) and Jason Garey (for Rogers) in the 78th minute. The Crew came close to tying the game when Eric Brunner almost put a header in from a corner.

Despite the Crew going down 2-0, they were able to square the series up, as Lenhart was able to score his second of the night. Lenhart got a nice pass in the box from Renteria and the forward was left one-on-one with the Toluca keeper. Lenhart faked to his right and shot the ball to his left, beating the goalie who had gone down to the first deke.

“I think I had good chances and got a little lucky,” Lenhart said after the match. “It was the team creating chances and it paid off.”

The series was tied 2-2, but the momentum had shifted to the Crew as the Nordeke had raised their voices for their home club. And they were almost treated to a game winner in the 86th minute, when Renteria was fouled on the side of the box, which could have been a caution.

No card, but the Crew had a critical free kick at a critical time. “I think it was a very physical game that put my players, as well as the Crew players, in harm’s way.” Toluca head coach Jose Manuel de la Torre said in Spanish. “I am very upset and disappointed at the level of refereeing in the game tonight.”

Padula stood over the ball and took the kick, but he kicked it higher than any player could have reached, even if they were eight feet tall.

“I thought our level of fitness was pretty good,” Warzycha said. 2-2 was the final on the night, but the Crew must feel that they won a big battle. Both these teams meet in Toluca on March 17 at 8 pm.

“Toluca is a very dangerous place to play,” Warzycha said.

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