Tuesday, October 5, 2010

10/5/2010: Punchless Crew Look To Regain Form/Season In Open Cup Finale vs. Seattle

Can the Crew salvage their season? A lot relies on tonight.

In recent weeks the Columbus Crew have lacked that knockout punch, never say die attitude that the club is usually known for by the fans. Many missed opportunities have led to what could've been a brillant season turning into what can be, at best, a decently good season. And, tonight's U.S. Open Cup Final against Seattle at 10 P.M. will either be the catalyst for a season to remember, or the disaster that led to a season to forget; As tonight's Open Cup Final is the one possible saving grace for a promising season, that has whiddled down to an okay season because of a number of missed opportunities by the Crew in recent weeks.

Missed opportunity number 1: The Crew let the Los Angeles Galaxy and Real Salt Lake run away in the Supporters Shield race that the Crew once led a little over a month ago. Columbus is currently a good seven points back of Los Angeles and five points back of RSL. In comparison, a couple of weeks ago the Crew were tied with the Los Angeles Galaxy with a chance to take the outright lead in a game at LA. What did the Crew do? They lost 3-1 and LA has never looked back since.

The Crew will not be Supporter Shield winners for the third consecutive season in a row, despite having it for the taking.

Missed opportunity number 2: At one point the Crew were 10 to 12 points ahead of Red Bull New York in the Eastern Conference.. This Saturday, the Red Bulls defeated Kansas City 1-nil to overtake the Crew in the East by a margin of 47 points to the Crew's 46. The Crew may still take the Eastern Conference top spot but I wouldn't expect the Crew to win back that top spot either at this point; as it's pretty apparent which team is better and surging right now in the East and that is New York.

Missed opportunity number 3: I'm not sure if it was a better idea for the Crew to play their backups against Municipal this past week instead of against Joe Public in their final CONCACAF Champions League game later this month. Last week, the Crew took 15 players to Guatemala and left 9 starters at home and lost in horrible conditions 2-1 to Municipal. The victory for Municipal gave them 8 points, while the Crew has 9 points and Santos Laguna has 10 points.

One would have to figure that even Santos Laguna is going to be forced to play mostly starters in their final Champions League game because a loss to Municipal in that game and a Crew win would eliminate Santos Laguna. So, therefore, the Crew should be able to qualify; especially if they play a competitive lineup against a Joe Public team that can't seem to beat anyone in the group.

But, why not go for the juggular and play mostly starters in Guatemala and end the thing? That way you can play all backups later in the month. Also, a win in Guatemala would have allowed us to win the group over a Mexican team. A win in Guatemala would also have gave us a #1 seed which would make us more likely to play a weaker #2 team in the quarterfinals.

Should have saved the reserves for Joe Public; As I think the reserves could still get a win down there. That would have gave us 15 points in the group and would have meant that we won the group, which I think is a great achievement.

So, I'm not really a fan of the lassez-faire attitude of the Columbus Crew coaches this year and the entire team's attitude so far in 2010. Because when you have a legitimate chance to win your group in Champions League you should go for it. When you have a showdown to take sole possession of the Supporters Shield, you should be more prepared for it... And when you lose 4-nil at Columbus Crew Stadium in front of 18,000 fans and the Nordecke, you shouldn't make an excuse that it was a much closer game; As that sort of loss would have been unimaginable in 2008 and early 2009 when we couldn't even lose 1-nil at Columbus Crew Stadium.

But then again I think the atmosphere was much better in 2008 and early 2009 since the Nordecke was general admission and much more packed. But, what do I know.

That brings us to tonight. The team that hammered the Crew 4-nil in Columbus a few weeks back just happens to be their U.S. Open Cup opponent, the Seattle Sounders. Both sides believe that the 4-nil pounding in Columbus will play a factor in this rematch for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup trophy.

Sigi Schmid in interview with The News Tribune:

“I think it does register. It certainly gives us some confidence but, like I said before, they are a good team. They are a proud team [. . .] They are a team that’s going to want to come and say, ‘Hey, look, that’s not a reflection of our abilities.’ And it isn’t because they are too good of a team.”

Brian Carroll on the game in interview with Crew intern Steve Sirk:

“We’re excited to come out here as an entire group and be a part of this Open Cup final. We want to put on a good performance and come out of here with a trophy. We know it’s going to be a great atmosphere and a tough test. Seattle is a great team and this is a tough environment to play in, but we are going to put our heart and soul into the game. We’re certainly capable if we put on a good performance and play like we are able to. They were sharp when we played them at our place, and now we need to be sharp at their place.”

I highlighted heart and soul for a reason. Carroll says the Crew will put there heart and soul into the game tonight. I sure hope that Brian Carroll is right because I haven't seen much heart and soul going on in the last month and a half. More like the wheels falling off the track, missed opportunities going past the Crew, and everyone staying upbeat and saying "well we lost that opportunity but we still have the U.S. Open Cup and the playoffs."

Well, let me tell you, this game tonight is a must win for Robert Warzycha and the Crew tonight. 1.) If you cannot get up for a trophy, especially one that reads Lamar Hunt (your previous owner who left this earth and loved this club) then you shouldn't be on the Crew. 2.) This could be an extreme boost of confidence and make the Crew hungry for more honors on the road to MLS Cup. 3.) If the Crew doesn't play well tonight, I feel like the Crew will fall apart the rest of the season and have a bland performance in the playoffs. 4.) A season without any trophies this year for this team is a failing season for Warzycha and this is his best opportunity.

So, I hope the Crew have their heart and souls in it tonight.. And they go for the juggular this time, finish their chances, and put a solid 90 minutes in for the first time in a while here. A win and a trophy would go a long way towards restoring some faith into this 2010 season.

**Keys to Winning Tonight: I would go for an attacking lineup with Renteria, Mendoza, Griffit, Schelotto all involved at some point. I would play a similiar defensive line as we did against San Jose on Saturday.. And I would have the Crew man mark Blaise Nfuko, have Chad Marshall following the big striker everywhere. As Nfuko, the former FC Twente Swiss striker, put 3 goals past the Crew in that 4-nil Crew loss to Seattle at Crew stadium.

** A very interesting, historic look at the U.S. Open Cup from The Seattle Times.

Quoteable from U.S. Soccer historian Roger Allaway:
"The Sounders making a big deal of it certainly helps," Allaway said, "because, to me, the Open Cup is the main remaining link to the earlier decades of soccer history."

The over 30,000 crowd expected Tuesday night will smash the previous U.S. Open Cup Final record of 21,583 from the 1929 final between New York Jewish club Hakoah and Maddison Club of St. Louis.

** Cool stuff over here at Sirkness from Seattle.

** Quotes from the Seattle Sounders at the Seattle News Tribune.

** Snubbed Crew seeks last laugh from Shawn Mitchell at The Columbus Dispatch. Talks about how the Crew sees themselves as the Millwall of the U.S., a smaller market club that "no one likes, but we don't care."

** A new video mashup I made with pictures of the Nordecke Ultras from the past three years:

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your assessment on the Champions League, with a competitive lineup the Crew could have beat Municipal down there and sent any lineup to Joe Public and came out on top in the Champions League with 15 points.

    It's just a bad sign when it comes to their planning.

    Warzycha didn't make a good call there, because it's easier to get out of the quarterfinals when your not matched up with a Mexican team. Also, he made a bad call last night by having Lenhart and Burns start. Renteria and Mendoza should have been in there way before the 78th minute. They are better players and the Crew looked much sharper in the second half with them in there.

    With the loss last night, we go from once looking to win a treble a month ago to having a 1 out of 8 chance of winning MLS Cup.