Wednesday, August 19, 2009

8/19/09: Columbus Dominates Lowly Puerto Rico In Game 1 Of CONCACAF



Puerto Rico played the requisite frustrating game that lesser talented teams play in these sorts of tournaments on the road, 10 men behind the ball and nearly zero attacks. Puerto Rico's one legitimate chance on the whole night came via an assist from Panamian referee Roberto Moreno who couldn't get out of the way of a Gino Padula pass which led to a Puerto Rican counterattack. Hesmer was livid about the referee's blunder but luckily Puerto Rico's CONCACAF luck expired like three month old milk in Columbus as the Crew won 2-0.

Columbus attacked, attacked, and attacked all night but couldn't find pay dirt in the first half. This was primarily because of the solid acrobatics from former Crew keeper Bill Gaudette who parried brillantly an Ekpo shot destined for the net in the 36th minute. Also, questionable referring played a factor as Roberto Moreno failed to call two legitimate PK's. One from a Puerto Rican handball in the box and another from a American football tackle on Schelotto by an Islanders defender in the box.

Columbus wasn't a bit worried though and were full of confidence that the goals would come eventually. However, Warzycha didn't want to take any chances of a tie at home in what will likely be the Crew's easiest game in CONCACAF, so Robert switched to a 3-5-2 inserting Steven Lenhart and pulling defender Jed Zayner. Left midfielder Robbie Rogers thought the ballsy move was brillant, "The game opened up in the second half. I thought it was smart to move to a 3-5-2. It was a great decision by Bobby." In a tournament where a lot of MLS teams are afraid to take a risk(even at home) it paid off for the Columbus Crew and Warzycha.

Robert Warzycha who looked totally out to sea in his first seven games with the Crew is starting to pull strings like a Polish Alex Ferguson. He explains the decision to Crew writer Craig Merz, "I put Steven Lenhart on the field because I wanted to change the way we played a little bit," Warzycha said. "I wanted to improve the quality on the field. He can challenge the defenders."
A move only a coach pulling strings correctly would say as Steven Lenhart didn't look high quality on Saturday against FC Dallas, receiving only a 4.92 rating in Crewture's People's Ratings for his horrid touches in that contest. Lenhart received some of the highest ratings before a dip in form the last two league games.

But, apparently Warzycha saw something that made him call Lenhart off the bench instead of Garey and it paid off. Lenhart was a terror for the Puerto Rico defenders for most of the second half and got the Crew on the scoresheet in the process from close range in the 57th minute. Although, Puerto Rico didn't look as if they were about to make any sort of comeback it was nice that Rogers was able to ice the game 21 minutes later in the 78th minute. Rogers scored in similiar fashion as the Islanders couldn't keep the Crew out of their six yard box for two easy finishes.

My ratings:
Hesmer- 6.5 Can't really say was never really challenged all game. Easy breezy night out for him.
Zayner- 7.2 Bummer he had to go to the bench, he has been solid lately.
Marshall- 7.8
Brunner- 7.8
Padula- 7
Ekpo- 7.8 Thought he had another solid night, was robbed of a goal by Gaudette. That was a brillant move to get that shot.
Carroll- 7
O'Rourke- 7
Rogers- 8.5
Moreno- 6.5 Meh.
Schelotto- 6.8 Seen better out of him, seemed a bit rusty at times. Should of had a PK though.

SUBS
Lenhart- 8.6 MOTM. Rogers was more influential the full 90 but I have to give it to Lenhart for redeeming himself and getting that first goal. It's almost like Warzycha knows what players will show up for what games. It's so big to get that first one in games like this, it takes the pressure off. We would of been done in this tournament if we didn't get a win in this game. That change changed the whole energy.
Moffat-6.2 Meh.
Gaven- 8.5 Hell, he might even be better than Ekpo off of the bench. Interesting idea by Warzycha. He should just go back and forth with the two to keep them fresh and happy.

Warzycha- 10. Sigi would of never of went with a 3-5-2. Lenhart wouldn't of been first off the bench either after playing badly against Dallas. And, Gaven wouldn't ever come off the bench for Ekpo. Lots of interesting ideas from Warzycha nowadays. Gaining confidence just like the team.

Up Next: Cruz Azul next Wednesday. MLS did the Crew a huge favor by giving them a few games off at the start of the CONCACAF tournament. It's huge that Columbus can concentrate all their resources on their first two games without a MLS game in between. Cruz Azul will not have the same luxury as they will conserve energy tonight against Saprissa at home and follow that up with a FMF league matchup with Club America on Saturday. In seven days Cruz Azul will play 3 games compared to the Crew's two in eight days. That's an advantage for the Crew, can they capitalize with a surprise win in Mexico?

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