Saturday, August 1, 2009

8/1/09: Game Recap- Crew vs. Colorado

By JB the First

Massive photo credit to studio79

What do you get when you put the Crew on a field with a team that has only beaten two playoff position teams, thin the air, and remove Conor Casey, Frankie Hejduk, and Guillermo Barros Schelotto? A sleeper of a 1-0 win for the Massive Club.

Chad Marshall's 39th minute free kick goal was the only difference on the scoreboard between the two teams, but it was Marshall's back line, Will Hesmer's goalkeeping, and good old-fashioned luck that granted Columbus three valuable away points, keeping them one point above Chicago (who has a game in hand) in the Eastern Conference. Colorado had a handful of threatening moves in each half, but Pat Noonan, Omar Cummings, and Colin Clark failed to put one in the Crew's net.

GK Will Hesmer had a Man of the Match performance, making five saves and looking like his dependable self from '08. The only nervous moments in net came on punches at a few of the Rapids' many corner kicks. His kicking wasn't great, but his primary job is to keep the ball out of the night, and he accomplished that tremendously.

The defense was called upon just about all night, with most of them rising to the occasion. Jed Zayner had a good night after a few shaky plays early on, Eric Brunner made a few minor mistakes, but dominated the air, and Chad Marshall put in a typical performance, making some key stops, but also committing one or two lapses in concentration. Gino Padula's performance was the most worrying, getting burned several times one-on-one, and showing his lack of pace against Colorado's speedy Omar Cummings.

A quick glance at the game may have yielded the impression that the Crew only fielded five players. Central midfielders Brian Carroll and Danny O'Rourke had quiet nights offensively, with Carroll especially guilty of several head scratching turnovers. O'Rourke had a few nice tackles, but overall the pair both proved that they are better off playing directly in front of the defense, rather than in the middle of the park.

On the wings, Eddie Gaven did his best Invisible Man impersonation, completely disappearing from the attack and from the match for long stretches. He hustled back on defense, but he contributed little if anything to the attack. Robbie Rogers looked very similar, except for a few wayward service attempts, some negative passes, and less hustle on defense. The '08 standout tried to play his game, but he was obviously fatigued from National Team duty.

Up front, Jason Garey and Steven Lenhart put the Bash Brothers show on hold for a week. Both hustled for most of the night and Garey made a few good runs, including one where he was fouled to set up Marshall's free kick, but Lenhart's night was ugly. His below average touch showed time and time again, as he was put in some good positions, but turned the ball over and came away with nothing. He used his height in the air for a few good flick ons, but none were in key areas or resulted in anything significant.

Subs Emmanuel Ekpo, Alejandro Moreno, and Adam Moffat made positive contributions in their limited minutes. Moreno in particular had a nice shot on goal, but there were no Columbus players waiting for the juicy rebound that Colorado keeper Matt Pickens gave up. Ekpo killed time well, but didn't provide anything to the attack. Moffat was only in for around ten minutes, so there wasn't much of a body of work to form an opinion.

Coach Warzycha seems to be getting more and more comfortable with what he has at his disposal and how to use it. Ekpo is great as a sub as long as he can keep his head in the game, and keeping the Bash Brothers together, despite Alejandro Moreno's return to fitness, was a gutsy move. It also seems obvious that Robert approves of Eric Brunner, as the Dublin, OH native has been starting at center back, with Danny O'Rourke (of Worthington, OH) staying in the midfield. In the past, it was more likely to see Ekpo on the right wing, Gaven in the middle, O'Rourke at center back, and Brunner on the bench. Perhaps Warzycha likes Danny O better in the midfield, and prefers his center backs to be of the towering, tree-like variety.

It's obvious that the Crew are in need of an attacking spark on the road. When playing at Crew Stadium, it seems the Nordecke gives them a lift, but they look like they need Schelotto healthy or Hejduk's leadership on the field if they're going to get anything other than some lucky bounces away from Columbus. There is no creative spark in the midfield with Rogers fatigued, Ekpo coming in as a sub, and Schelotto injured. Gaven is more of a central midfielder playing wing, and both Carroll and O'Rourke are simply converted defensive midfielders playing in the middle of the park. The current road trip could be very productive if Columbus can escape from San Jose with three points, but the Earthquakes have been decent at home (3-4-2) and they can't be overlooked. Hopefully Robbie Rogers will be fit and ready to catalyze some offense come next Saturday.

Player Ratings:

-------------------------Hesmer (9 MOTM)-------------------

Zayner (7.5)----Brunner (7)----Marshall (8)----Padula (6)

------------------O'Rourke (6)----Carroll (5)-----------------

Gaven (4)-------------------------------------------Rogers (4)

--------------Lenhart (4)---------Garey (5)-------------------


Ekpo (5.5)

Moreno (6)

Moffat (Not enough time)


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