Monday, May 4, 2009

5/4/09: Arace Commentary- Crew Suffering From A Plugged Massive

Just because his articles are spot on. Let's try to be patient. Has to come next week.

From Crew Xtra:
The Crew is suffering from a plugged Massive. The Fighting Canaries need a victory. Just one ought to uncork them.

They have three times surrendered leads in the last nine minutes of regulation. Each time, they have done it at home -- against Toronto, Colorado and Chicago -- and put a drag on their supporters. It's no fun watching the tent fold.

The most brutal of these transgressions occurred nine days ago when the Fire, playing with an extra man, struck in the 86th and 88th minutes. Granted, the Crew got jobbed when Gino Padula was red-carded early in the second half, but a two-goal lead ought to stand up somehow. Tackle harder, eh?

Saturday night, Toronto got the equalizer in the 64th minute of a 1-1 tie. The Crew out-shot the Reds 17-5 and had a 9-2 edge in shots on goal. The Crew should have put another one or two past Stefan Frei -- hello, Pat Noonan -- but, alas, it did not. Once again, one point was manufactured from three.

And so, a quarter of the way through the season, the defending Major League Soccer champions have a record of 0-2-5. They are the only team in the league that hasn't won a game after scoring first. They have fewer points (five) than any other team outside of Dallas FC. It has been a tough spring for the Hunt family, unless you believe Tyson Jackson is the answer for the Kansas City Chiefs' defensive line.

Is it time to panic?

Not yet.

D.C. United and Toronto FC have 12 points apiece and they haven't separated themselves from the pack in the Eastern Conference. There is plenty of time to make up ground.

Think in segments. In 2004, the Crew went winless in its first five games, went on an 18-match unbeaten streak and finished with the league's best record. Last year, the Crew had a 4-6-4 slump before the All-Star break, went 9-2-2 down the stretch and won the MLS Cup.

Are this year's players capable of such a streak? Of course they are. To this point, they have displayed two traits. The first and most obvious one is they can flat-out blow a lead. The second, which is just as obvious, is they can still flat-out play. They have been very good for long stretches in most of their games. Saturday was a case in point. The Crew clearly had the better of the play in Toronto.

Coach Robert Warzycha is beginning to take some heat. That is to be expected. Although being winless is wearing on him, he is maintaining a steady hand and eschewing drastic change. He has the undivided attention of his players, who remain motivated to play for him. Everyone is sticking with the program -- as they should. Their problem has little to do with personnel or strategy.

Injuries have had an impact. The Crew captain, defender Frankie Hejduk (hamstring), hasn't played since the season opener. Chad Marshall, the 2008 MLS defender of the year, has missed time because of a contusion or a concussion, depending on the interpretation of the day. Goaltender William Hesmer (knee) has missed the past two games. Robbie Rogers (hamstring), Jason Garey (ankle) and Noonan (back) have been in and out of the lineup. Midfielder Adam Moffat, who was supposed to fill the hole left after Seattle claimed Brad Evans in the expansion draft, returned from a yearlong knee rehab only to suffer a pulled hamstring.

Injuries can affect the psychology of a team. And right now, the Crew is wrestling with a subliminal demon that doesn't need ancillary support. Every time the Crew scores a goal, the Canaries wonder whether they can hold the lead. And every time their opponents come back to tie, the Canaries look to the soccer gods and exclaim, "Enough already."

There is plenty of time for a fix. The Crew needs health, a smile or two from the gods and a victory. Just one might uncork the blocked Massive. They need to remember what it is like to win, and they will, sooner or later.


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