Archive | Match Reports

Another three-point three-pointer

Posted on 05 September 2010 by pshea

The Colorado Rapids punched in a flurry of three unanswered goals against Chivas USA for a second consecutive 3-0 victory at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday night.

In the 52nd minute, Omar Cummings delivered a long-range blast that visiting goalkeeper Zach Thornton couldn’t handle. Colorado’s Conor Casey read the rebound better than the nearest defenders, toe-poking the first of three goals in 29 minutes.

Cummings followed with an eviscerating series of cuts past Ante Jazic in the 68th minute, collecting a pass from Mehdi Ballouchy before cutting and feigning to shoot with his left and cutting back to set up his right for a low laser into the left corner. Cummings put the game out of reach 13 minutes later when he raced behind defenders for a right-footed tuck-away off a breakaway from the left.

Chivas USA arrived with the worst record in the MLS Western Conference (6-11-4), and they left the stadium with only one shot for the night, a snapping header in the fourth minute. For the remainder of the game, all of their touches seemed cursed, as if Rapids fans stuck pins in Chivas USA dolls right before players sent a pass out of bounds or took a first touch with the delicacy of a goalmouth clearance. Even Justin Braun (normally a solid target) had trouble holding the ball during his 31 minutes at the end of the game.

“Sometimes it was because of solid defending, and sometimes because we were not technically sharp,” summarized Chivas USA head coach Martin Vasquez.

Vasquez said he established a conservative strategy to accommodate the altitude and the weariness from playing a third game in less than a week. For the first 52 minutes, it worked. Much of the game involved midfield battles early on. Thornton saved three shots from Casey, and Pickens nipped Paulo Nagamura’s header over the bar, but the action didn’t stray too far from the center circle in the first half.

“I have a lot respect for them because they try to play no matter what, they try to move the ball,” Rapids midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy said.

Ballouchy noted how the tide turned in the game. “To be honest,” Ballouchy said, “we really didn’t start that well. We gave up the ball a few too many times in the first half.”

“Some of the quality on the ball was below the high standards that the guys have set,” Colorado head coach Gary Smith said. “The second half there was a little more edge and a little bit more positive motion to our play. Conor was absolutely on the pulse for the knockdown. And he gets the ball rolling. Once it gets rolling, everybody’s on it. Everyone wants to score and be involved.”

For the first goal, the Colorado midfield swirled like sharks and regained control of the ball in the center of the field. Kosuke Kimura stepped in front of Jeff Larentowicz and pushed forward, finding Cummings with enough space on the right side for him to unleash the challenging blast that Casey put away.

“We have Pablo [Mastroeni] and Jeff in the center and me tucking in as well,” Ballouchy explained, “so we kind of create the extra man, and it gives Kosuke a chance to get forward and join in the attack.”

Speaking of Mastroeni, Smith noted how, “Pablo’s been up all night ill. He was very close to coming off at halftime. Quite simply, that’s why he’s our captain. He stays out for there for 90 minutes and puts on a display.”

Smith explained the explosion of goals over the past two weeks with a definition of “form.”

“I could show you 20 DVDs,” Smith said, “probably 18 of them we have fabulous chances and we weren’t quite as clinical as we should have been. That’s called ‘form.’ That’s why Edson [Buddle] scores 10 goals in eight games [and merely three more in the next 10 games]. When your form is hot, you score goals. When your form is warm, you don’t score goals.”

The visitors’ form seemed cursed, but Chivas USA took the right approach.

“For 50 minutes, they’re in the game,” Smith said. “Once you score, it changes everybody’s mindset.”

Vasquez concurred. “The first goal mentally affected us,” Vasquez said. “They got the momentum, and we couldn’t shake it off. They went after us and finished the game.”

Looking ahead, Vasquez said, “We will need to regroup and look forward to next Friday.”

Ballouchy looks ahead with an eye for team-wide momentum. “Definitely confidence,” Ballouchy said. “We are heading to a tough place, New York. And we hope to play as well as we have the last couple of games. It’s a great test.”

Selective hometown player ratings

On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highest.

Colorado Rapids

Anthony Wallace (5): Starting at left back for his first minutes since the trade with FC Dallas, Wallace balanced (in near-equal quarters) steady possessions, solid defending, creative attacks, and semi-egregious errors. Overall, he did his part for the shutout. In the fourth minute, Jesus Padilla slipped the ball to Alan Gordon on Wallace’s flank, and Gordon served up a perfect cross. Paulo Nagamura snapped a hard header, and Pickens sprang to redirect it over the bar. Over the course of more than 86 minutes left to play, the visitors didn’t take another shot.

Omar Cummings (8): Worthy of a “nine” in the second half, Cummings maintained his rapidly successive attacking style of eluding defenders and overcoming their attempts to foul him. All three goals started with Cummings shaking free. However, the Jamaican who will represent his national team this week started the game on Saturday with an iron foot, losing possession uncharacteristically and misdirecting passes with bad timing and incorrect angles. Noted in the in-stadium post-game interview, Cummings wore white shoes to start the game but switched into yellow shoes at halftime. His touches turned golden until head coach Gary Smith obviated a hattrick with a ceremonial substitution less than 10 minutes from the final whistle. The crowd applauded appropriately, matching the loud ovation Cummings received during the pregame player announcements.

Conor Casey, 77 minutes (7): Casey was relentless with consistent sniffs (four of five shots on frame, including the opening goal).

Jeff Larentowicz (6): In the first half, Larentowicz had iron-foot syndrome as bad (or worse) than Omar’s, but he snapped out of it before the break.

Pablo Mastroeni (8): The captain battled illness and put in a solid performance to neutralize the midfield and step up to take a shot off a corner kick sequence in the 32nd minute.

Chivas USA

Yamith Cuesta (2): Cuesta inventoried the china shop like a whiskey-filled bull. After leveling Jamie Smith with a cross-check on the wing, Cuesta received a yellow card for thumping Cummings to the ground. He treated the ball with less tenderness. He also allowed Casey to get to the ball first for the opening goal, didn’t cover the far post after Cummings sliced past Michael Umana and Ante Jazic on the second, and he took a chance to jump around Andre Akpan to clear the ball with his head in the 81st minute, ultimately flicking it on to Cummings for the third goal.

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TKO after 23 minutes

Posted on 29 August 2010 by pshea

The Colorado Rapids got behind the Houston defense three times in the first 23 minutes on Saturday night, and the Dynamo found themselves behind by three goals and one player with more than an hour remaining at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, ultimately losing 0-3.

Imagine a boxing match decided with a TKO in the first round, but instead of heading to the showers, the victor has to stay on his feet for another hour. The vanquished foe gets up off the mat to take a few periodic swings, but the contest is essentially over.

“The first 10 minutes is the story,” Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear explained. “You can talk about the next 80, but after the first 10, the game’s already done.”

Rapids midfielder Jamie Smith opened the scoring in the second minute when Conor Casey carried the ball through midfield and threaded a pass to the left wing. Smith cut to the goal and Omar Cummings streaked up the middle stride-for-stride. Pat Onstadt had to consider both players before digging the ball out of the net.

“It was a fantastic pass,” Smith said. “I really didn’t have to do too much. As soon as he played it past, my first thought was to go for goal.”

Five minutes later, captain Pablo Mastroeni jumped to flick a ball forward in midfield, and Dynamo midfielder Lovel Palmer jumped into the play. Both players tangled on the ground and kicked at each other. After consulting with referee assistants on the sideline, Abiodun Okulaja showed Palmer a red card and flashed a yellow for Mastroeni.

Down a man, Houston was down by two goals six minutes later when Mastroeni pushed the ball forward to Casey on the right wing. Again, Cummings streaked in front of the goal and tucked away Casey’s square ball for the 2-0 lead (and his sixth goal of the season).

For the next few minutes, the Rapids maintained one of the longest possessions ever seen at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. With the ball at their feet and only 10 dispirited opponents, they probed forward, retreated, switched sides, and patiently worked the ball.

In the 23rd minute, the long possession period concluded with the final goal of the game. Houston had the ball briefly but lost it, a first-time touch to Cummings in the Rapids’ defensive half. Cummings weaved past Anthony Obodai’s attempt to foul him and put the ball on Mehdi Ballouchy’s foot inside the box. The creator from Casablanca cleverly cut around a sliding Geoff Cameron and fired a shot on-goal. Onstadt deflected the blast, but Casey was in position to nod the ball in the net (his eighth goal of the season).

Kinnear replaced Dominic Oduro with Mike Chabala, and then he removed Obodai and fortified his defense with Eddie Robinson. Brian Ching created an opportunity at the close of the half, but he tweaked his calf. So Kinnear used his third substitute to put Cam Weaver up top for the second half, a 45-minute formality.

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Tough losses with Colorado win

Posted on 08 August 2010 by pshea

An own goal in the 26th minute gave the Colorado Rapids a 1-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday night, but both teams lost players to injury.

Bobby Burling and Ramiro Corrales limped to the visitors’ bench, and Colin Clark struggled to reach the Rapids’ bench after he went down in the 58th minute. It was a physical contest with neither team putting a shot on goal in the first half.

Injuries hit the Rapids before the game even started. Conor Casey seems to have recovered from his head injury, but he hasn’t been able to train enough to be match fit. During training on Friday, midfielder Jamie Smith took a cleared ball in the head and was scratched from the roster to let his skull recover safely.

The game opened with San Jose in possession of the ball and tempo. Although goalkeeper Matt Pickens wasn’t threatened, the Rapids once again looked like the visitors in their own stadium. But Quincy Amarikwa took charge. Starting up front with Omar Cummings, Amarikwa sought the ball and started to put defender Bobby Burling on his heels.

With the momentum shifted, Wells Thompson ran down a ball and crossed it into the box in the 10th minute. A crashing Colin Clark slid to make contact, redirecting the ball off the left post. On the next play, Jeff Larentowicz blasted a shot that Burling deflected with a sliding save.

Amarikwa beat Burling again two minutes later, leading to another deflected shot. Amarikwa nutmegged Burling a minute after that attempt and slipped a pass to Clark, who crossed it to a closely marked Cummings (shooting wide right).

In the 25th minute, Amarikwa beat Burling again and opted to shoot instead of finding Cummings at the far post. San Jose defender Brandon McDonald deflected the shot.

A minute later, Kosuke Kimura pushed up the right wing and fed Cummings, who fired a cross toward Clark running deep into the goalmouth. San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch had a hard time reading the ball, deflecting it into the net for the only goal of the game.

Player ratings

On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highest.

Colorado Rapids

Matt Pickens (7): Neither team put a shot on goal in the first half, but the Earthquakes mounted an aggressive pursuit for the equalizer, forcing Pickens to make three crucial saves in the final 25 minutes of play. Bobby Convey sent a free kick on-goal, and Pickens had to dive forward to block the ball before Brandon McDonald creamed him. Convey blasted another shot in stoppage time, and Pickens deflected it wide. Pickens also left his line in time to snuff Cornell Glen on a breakaway.

Drew Moor (6): Moor minimized Arturo Alvarez, blocked a cross from Tim Ward, fed Colin Clark, and overlapped to receive a pass from Claudio Lopez and find Pablo Mastroeni in the final phase of the game.

Julien Baudet (6): Baudet connected on two headers off corner kicks in the second half, sending the ball high and retreating for crucial defensive plays at the other end of the field. Baudet’s crunching tackles and dominance in the air contributed to the shutout.

Marvell Wynne (5): Wynne started the game with a sweeping steal on the sideline and finished with only one scary moment because he was out of position (an improvement over the 1-1 tie with FC Dallas a week ago).

Kosuke Kimura (6): Kimura battled from the opening whistle to the end of the game, suffering fouls from Ramiro Corrales and other Earthquakes. Kimura pushed the ball forward to roommate Cummings in the 26th minute, leading to a cross that knuckled and deflected off Jon Busch for the lone goal of the game.

Colin Clark, 58 minutes (5): Clark showed flashes of his former self, forcing Jason Hernandez on his heels and sparking the crowd with a shot off the left post in the 10th minute. But the midfielder went down in the 58th minute, buckling under his own stressful cut. Although he eschewed the stretcher and limped off on his own, his body language told everyone that he and his left knee were in for a long recovery. Claudio Lopez interrupted his warm-ups twice to console Clark.

Mehdi Ballouchy, 32 (6): Ballouchy replaced Clark and sparked a flurry of attacks and extended possessions. Omar Cummings battled for the ball on the right wing in the 90th minute, stayed on his feet to prove advantage, and sent the ball across the field to a streaking Ballouchy. But Jon Busch had excellent positioning and timing to block the breakaway.

Pablo Mastroeni (6): The captain’s consistency maintained Colorado’s defensive shape and integrated him in the attack throughout the game.

Jeff Larentowicz (5): Larentowicz stabilized midfield and maintained possession. San Jose dominated the opening minutes of the game, but Larentowicz contributed to Colorado’s willful takeover when he responded to Clark’s sliding shot off the post with a blast that forced Bobby Burling to slide for a deflection in the 11th minute.

Wells Thompson (6): Thompson shifted from side to side, played aggressive defense, and attacked the San Jose defenders. The Earthquakes started the second half with the same dominance as the opening minutes of the game, but in the 47th minute Thompson collected the ball with his chest, darted through a crowd, and fed the ball to Cummings on the right wing for a cross. The Rapids maintained control of the game from that point until the closing minutes.

Omar Cummings (7): When it became clear that head official Hilario Grajeda was not inclined to blow his whistle after Cummings suffered repeated assaults, the Commerce City police might have received 911 calls from fans in the stands. But Cummings never complained.

“If the referee does not make the call, you have to play on, get on with the game,” Cummings explained.

Cummings finished the game with five shots and a barrage of dangerous passes into the box (including the cross that led to the own goal).

Quincy Amarikwa, 66 minutes (7): Amarikwa gave the Rapids a new look up front, and he alone changed the game in the early minutes to remind everyone that San Jose was not the home team. Amarikwa couldn’t battle the towering Bobby Burling in the air, but he was effective with the ball at his feet. In the 14th minute, Amarikwa nutmegged Burling and slipped the ball to Clark on the left wing. Clark sent a cross into the box, and Cummings got a step on Hernandez but hit the first-time shot wide.

Claudio Lopez, 24 minutes (5): Lopez seemed to have free passage through the San Jose defense in the closing minutes, resulting in a flubbed shot, a nice feed to Cummings for a shot wide right, and a shot of his own. Although he didn’t help defensively when the visitors increased pressure at the end of the game, Lopez helped shift the game to the other end of the field.

San Jose Earthquakes

Jon Busch (4): After giving up the own goal in the 26th minute, Busch seemed rattled and couldn’t hold onto the ball. But he came up big with two big saves in the final 20 minutes.

Bobby Burling, 41 minutes (5): Burling collided with Wells Thompson late in the first half and eventually had to leave the game. Although Quincy Amarikwa victimized Burling a few times, the towering defender didn’t allow any goals.

Tim Ward, 49 minutes (5): Ward didn’t seem ready to hop on the moving train when he stepped on the field before halftime, but he looked comfortable as the game progressed, pushing into the attack during the offensive surge in the closing minutes.

Ramiro Corrales, 80 minutes (5): The cagey Corrales had to leave the game after injuring himself when he fouled Kosuke Kimura from behind in the final 10 minutes of play. Although head coach Frank Yallop said he wouldn’t know the future of his captain until further evaluation, he figured Corrales might be out for four to six weeks.

Scott Sealy, 10 minutes (5): Coach Yallop said he thought Sealy was about “50 percent healthy,” but he had to use him when Corrales went down. Sealy contributed to the late-game surge.

Jason Hernandez (6): Hernandez made three crucial head clearances that would have been golden scoring opportunities for Rapids attackers behind him. He also redirected Cummings away from danger, sometimes with good positioning and other times with timely shoves. Hernandez went down with apparent cramps late in the game, allowing Claudio Lopez to slip through to the penalty box and force Busch to make a save.

Brandon McDonald (5): McDonald helped contain Cummings, and he prevented Julien Baudet from scoring off corner kicks.

Arturo Alvarez (6): Subtle and tricky, Alvarez set up the most dangerous opportunities for the visitors, and he forced Matt Pickens to make his first save of the game in the 69th minute.

Bobby Convey (5): Convey seemed to hide for much of the game, but he fired two shots on goal in the closing minutes when San Jose charged for an equalizer.

Sam Cronin (5): Cronin cracked a shot wide left in the 81st minute, and he slowed traffic straight up the field.

Joe Gjertsen, 64 minutes (4): Gjertsen blended into the woodwork, making his presence known only when the stadium announcer noted his departure from the game.

Cornell Glen, 26 minutes (5): Glen started the game with a forceful introduction from Julien Baudet. Glen slipped behind Marvel Wynne to collect a pass for a breakaway with a few minutes left. Pickens snuffed the attempt.

Ryan Johnson (5): Johnson held his own against Julien Baudet, combining soft touches with hard possessions.

Chris Wondolowski (5): Steady in midfield, Wondowloski also shot the ball more than any of his teammates (three shots).

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Rapids tie FC Dallas, 1-1

Posted on 02 August 2010 by pshea

For the third consecutive home game, the Colorado Rapids left Dick’s Sporting Goods Park with a 1-1 tie, this time against FC Dallas on Saturday afternoon. Although they didn’t anticipate an own goal from Rapids defender Julien Baudet, the visitors executed their plan and came up with the opening score in the 22nd minute.

“I thought Marvell [Wynne] was being caught out of position a few times,” noted FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman. “That’s something we talked about at our pregame meeting because we know he’ll attack. Even though he’s probably the most athletic player in the league, we thought we’d have a few opportunities to cut the ball behind him and get off some crosses.”

Rapids fans marvel at Wynne’s ability to retreat rapidly. When the defender chases down opponents, the crowd sounds astonished. But when David Ferreira slipped a perfectly weighted through ball to Jair Benitez streaking down the left wing, Wynne couldn’t recover enough to block the cross from Benitez. Baudet got the step on Atiba Harris and connected with a desperate lunge, but he redirected the ball into the net.

Four minutes later, Baudet had a chance to erase his bad fortune with a goal off a corner kick from Jamie Smith, but Harris blocked the ball with his hand in the penalty box. Mehdi Ballouchy buried the penalty kick to even the score, taking responsibility in lieu of the injured Conor Casey, who is three for three from the penalty spot this season.

“To be honest,” Hyndman noted, “not having Conor out there changed our approach to the game.”

Rapids head coach Gary Smith positioned Omar Cummings alone up top, and former Rapids defender Ugo Ihemelu used his speed to limit Cummings to only one shot in the 17th minute. Working with George John in the middle, Ihemelu stifled Colorado’s chances (four out of 10 shots on goal all afternoon).

“He has confidence in me,” Ihemelu said of Hyndman. “He’s a guy I trust and respect, and he always tells me what’s on his mind.”

Hyndman, who coached Ihemelu at Southern Methodist University, jumped at the chance to acquire the swift defender in a trade with Colorado last year.

Smith’s halftime speech on Saturday was succinct. “I told them to move the ball slightly quicker, and we had to find more aggressive areas just in front of their back four to release our wide players or Omar.

Smith credited John and Ihemelu for making it “really difficult for Omar.”

“Slowly but surely we added fresh legs and a player up front,” Smith said of his endgame plan, bringing in Quincy Amarikwa in the 73rd minute and Claudio Lopez with about 10 minutes of play remaining. But it wasn’t enough to generate a goal and three points for the club.

The Rapids host the San Jose Earthquakes next Saturday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (7:00 kickoff).

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The Wizards cast anti-scoring spell on Crew

Posted on 16 July 2010 by jzidar

Many MLS teams were in action on Wednesday night but only two of them were facing off against each other.  The series between Columbus and Kansas has been a lopsided one in recent years. During both the 2008 and 2009 campaigns Columbus went undefeated against the Wizards.  On May 23rd the two clubs met for the first of their two game series during the 2010 season.  Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Emilio Renteria combined on a corner kick to score the lone goal in that match to give the Crew a win at Community America Ballpark.

The Wizards came to Columbus Wednesday night for the second half of the series and were looking to get their first points after returning from the World Cup break. The Wizards’ have lost all three of the games they’ve played since coming back from the break.  The Crew were the exact opposite, not only have they gone undefeated in their MLS league games but they’ve also earned wins in both the Open Cup matches in which they’ve participated.  Columbus was expecting to easily dispatch yet another conference foe and extend their lead in the East. Kansas came into Columbus desperate for points and took it to the Crew, mainly through the use of the counterattack.







Bench: Gruenebaum; Brunner, O’Rourke, Francis; Ekpo; Lenhart(Garey 65′), Renteria(Rogers 65′)






Bench: Kronberg; Leathers, Aiyegbusi(Auvray 83′); Diop(Smith 88′), Jewsbury, Zusi(Rocastle 64′); Wolff

Warzycha’s decision to march out the exact same lineup from sweat soaked draw in Houston just four days previous may prove to be a fatal blow to Columbus’ Supporters Shield hopes. It was an unexpected and seemingly unnecessary move that was most likely the leading cause of the Crew’s inevitable downfall against Kansas. The loss meant that the Crew squandered their game in hand on the New York Red Bulls and lost three precious points in the race for the SS.

Columbus pushed hard right from the opening whistle and unleashed the first shot of the match just three minutes into the match.  Kansas was able to withstand the storm and attack on the counter. Stephane Auvray and Ryan Smith were dominant in the midfield and consistently out maneuvered Brian Carroll and Adam Moffat. Despite Kansas’ dominance of the midfield and obvious speed advantage the momentum early in the game was tipped in Columbus’ favor. It didn’t last long, fourteen minutes into the match the Wizards’ counter attack strategy paid off.

Former OSU product, Roger Espinoza, collected the ball after a unsuccessful Crew corner kick.  Espinoza found Smith inside the center circle who then turned and sent a long leading pass in behind the Columbus defense. MLS rookie, Teal Bunbury, ran onto the end of the pass, took a step and launched a shot from the top of the box that squeaked between William Hesmer’s legs and into the net. Bunbury, Michael Harrington and Kei ‘Columbus reject’ Kamara celebrated by running to the Nordecke and saluting them.

From that point on Columbus poured on the pressure but just couldn’t seem to find the back of the net. It was for lack of opportunities that the Crew didn’t level the game. The black and gold peppered the Kansas’ goal with 15 shots(6 on goal) and four corner kicks in the second half.  Jimmy Nielsen made big save after big save to keep the Crew off the scoreboard. Columbus was visibly fatigued but the offense got an infusion of life with the insertion of Renteria, Ekpo and Lenhart.  The teams desperation became horribly obvious in the final 10 minutes or so when the formation changed drastically.  The game plan was bomb and pray.  Moffat, Padula and Carroll manned the back line while Gaven and Ekpo provided a small semblance of a midfield. The five of them would retrieve the ball and pound it into the final third where a Frankenstein version of the forward line was waiting. Marshall, Iro, Lenhart, Renteria and Schelotto all lurked around the box trying to win headers and get the ball on goal. Every attack was a little closer than the last but ultimately Steven DePiero blew the whistle before Columbus could equalize.

Referee: Steven DePiero, Referee Assistants: Greg Barkey; James Conlee, 4th Official: Jasen Anno

Weather at kickoff: mid 80s and partly cloudy

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The Crew lay siege to the Battery

Posted on 10 July 2010 by jzidar

In 2008 the Charleston Battery powered their way from the first round of the Lamar Hunt US  Open Cup all the way to the final. Despite the epic run through the tournament they ultimately lost the match 2-1 to DC United. Charleston’s appearance in the final was the first time a USL club had played in the final since Rochester won the cup in 1999. In 2009 the Battery yet again made a valiant charge through the opening rounds only to be knocked off by the Houston Dynamo in a 4-0 loss.  So when the Charleston Battery came to Columbus on Tuesday to face the Crew in a Open Cup quarterfinal match they had victory on the mind. Unfortunately for them the Crew had other ideas….







Bench: Hesmer; Iro; Gaven(Duka 61′), Rogers, Yanez, Griffit(Renteria 76′); Garey(Lenhart 88′)






Bench: Wiggans; Zaher; Bolton, Gruenewald(Massie 70′), Jackson(Fuller 82′), Prince; Nunes(Armstrong 72′)

This was the Crew’s fourth match in 11 days but thanks to their incredible depth fatigue wasn’t an issue.  Chad Marshall was the only player to start against Charleston who also started against Chicago just three days before. Three other players (Lenhart, O’Rourke and Renteria) had been subbed in against Chicago but none had seen more than 25 minutes of action.  There is no doubt that the Columbus ‘A team’ is stronger than the Columbus ‘B team’ but there is something to be said for the fact that any member of the ‘B team’ could immediately earn a starting spot on another MLS team. In the words of Steven Lenhart “Columbus rolls so deep”.

Although the scoreline doesn’t suggest it, this match was less lopsided than the previous one against Rochester.  Charleston managed to hold its own for most of the first half.  That was until the 38th minute when Lenhart leapt into the air to try and receive a Duncan Oughton cross.  Charleston defender, Stephen Armstrong, saw what was materializing and tried to defend Lenhart but instead ended up just yanking him to the ground. Hilario Grajeda really had no choice but to blow his whistle and point to the penalty spot. At first it appeared as if Lenhart was going to get the opportunity to redeem himself for the missed PK against DC just a week before but when the box cleared it was Emilio Renteria who was left standing over the ball. In typical Renteria fashion he went with power rather than finesse as he took the kick. He ran up to the ball and unleashed an absolute rocket. Whether Charleston goalkeeper, Tim Melia, just guessed the wrong direction or was actually attempting to get out of the way of what could possibly have been a fatal shot we’ll never know.  The kick was so powerful that it literally lifted the posts off the ground.

As the second half progressed the Crew were pushing for a second goal but the ball just didn’t seem to want to go in the net.  Finally in the 70th minute Steven Lenhart struck again, this time actually scoring the goal rather than just creating the opportunity. It began with Emmanuel Ekpo sending the ball outside to Duncan Oughton who was lurking along the right hand side.  Oughton stepped towards the corner flag and sent in a fast pass along the ground. Lenhart simply had to slide in and tap the ball past the keeper and into the net.

With Columbus leading 2-0 it seemed as if their passage into the semifinals was assured.  In the 87th minute Eddie Gaven sealed the deal with a last minute insurance goal. Ekpo and Leandre Griffit got on a breakaway and Ekpo ended up with the ball in the box. Rather than take the shot Ekpo dropped the ball back to the top of the 18 yard box and into the path of the onrushing Gaven who slammed the ball home to give the home team a 3-0 lead.

Columbus must now wait until the 21st to see who wins the match between the Harrisburg City Islanders and DC United. If DC wins then Columbus will face them at the Maryland SoccerPlex on September 1st.  If Harrisburg wins then Columbus will face them at Columbus Crew Stadium on August 31st.

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Columbus’ fireworks outshine the Fire

Posted on 09 July 2010 by jzidar

On July 3rd, 2010 Commander-in-Chief Robert Warzycha led the Columbus Crew across the mighty Olentangy to face the vile ‘red coats’ on the field of battle in an attempt to liberate Columbus from the clutches of evil king Garber…  Ok, so maybe it didn’t go down exactly like that but the Crew did face off against red clad opponents on the eve of Independence Day.  The Chicago Fire came to Columbus and the Crew were out for blood, despite the match being their third in eight days.







Bench: Gruenebaum; Brunner, O’Rourke(Hejduk 70′), Francis; Ekpo; Lenhart(Schelotto 90′), Renteria(Garey 67′)






Bench: Johnson; Umanzor, Watson-Siriboe(Robinson 84′); Bone, Kinney; Lowry, Dimitrov(McBride 86′)

A crowd of 14,017 expected 4th of July celebrations upon the conclusion of the match but were treated to fireworks at the end of both halves.  In a span of four minutes Columbus took the lead, then gave it back, then took it again.

Jason Garey almost opened the scoring in the 25th minute.  Chad Marshall sent the ball forward to Garey who flicked the ball on to Guillermo Barros Schelotto before taking off up field. Schelotto brought the ball down, stalled for a moment and then slid the ball through the Fire defense and into the path of the on rushing Garey.  Garey made his first touch a low driven shot to the near post. The ball beat Dykstra, who was left laying at the top of the six yard box, before pinging off the post and out of bounds for a goal kick.

In the 43 minute Schelotto and Garey linked up yet again.  Schelotto received the ball 20 yards out with his back to goal.  He turned and again was able to sneak a pas through the Fire defense to Garey as he raced into the box. Garey and Dykstra reached the ball simultaneously.  The Fire keeper attempted to smother the ball but Garey got enough of a touch on it to knock it from Dykstra’s grasp.  A trailing Adam Moffat came racing in, collected the ball and knocked it into the wide open net to put Columbus up by one.

Before the crowd had even stopped celebrating tragedy struck.  A Chicago Fire cross came flying in from along the right touchline towards the back post.  Patrick Nyarko had been an annoyance the entire half and this instance was no different.  As the ball sailed towards the back post Nyarko was in dead sprint to meet it but Frankie Hejduk kept with him step for step.  Hejduk’s form may have begun to drop off with his age but one thing that hasn’t changed is his ability to maintain a breakneck speed throughout the entirety of a 90 minute match. His speed kept him with Nyarko but his form failed him. As the ball came in Hejduk had prime positioning in front of Nyarko but instead of calmly knocking the ball over the crossbar like he has a million times Hejduk misjudged the flight of the ball and ended up sending a curling header past Hesmer and into his own net.

The match was level with only a minute plus stoppage left to play in the first half.  It looked as if the two teams would be heading into the dressing rooms on equal footing and then the Crew struck again.  Schelotto received the ball along the left side and played the ball forward to Gaven. Gaven dribbled toward the box, lifted his head and spotted Garey racing into the penalty area.  Gaven sent in a perfect looping cross right into the path of Garey who only had to redirect the ball into the net. It was a world class goal that no written description can truly do justice to, so here is a link to the highlight!

The win was the Crew’s second in league play and third overall since returning from the World Cup break.  The loss snapped a four game unbeaten streak for the Fire.  Columbus goes on the road this Saturday to face off against the Houston Dynamo.

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Crew downs Rochester in Open Cup clash

Posted on 03 July 2010 by jzidar

In recent years MLS teams have treated the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup with less respect than their other competitive matches. The players that take the field are generally the last guys you’d expect to see on the pitch during a regular season match.  It isn’t until the final few games of the tournament do teams trot out the big guns in the hopes of snatching an easy piece of silverware for their trophy case.  However, this season the Columbus coaching staff promised to give the Open Cup, a tournament named after the club’s founder, the attention it deserves.







Bench: Hesmer; Marshall, O’Rourke; Oughton, Griffit; Garey, Renteria







Bench: Kitson; Costanzo; Spicer, Versailles; Gore, Kissi, Nunez

The Crew went into this match as the undisputed favorites.  Columbus dominated possession from start to finish and out shot Rochester 14-5.  Columbus pressed the Rhino’s box but it wasn’t until the 30 minute mark that they finally drew first blood.  In the absence of Guillermo Barros Schelotto the responsibility of corner kicks fell to Eddie Gaven who served in a beautiful ball that was met by the head of Andy Iro. The goal was Iro’s third of 2010 and his first in Open Cup play.  The goal held up until the half and Columbus went into the locker room feeling fairly confident.

Rochester came out a bit stronger in the second half and while Columbus still saw a majority of the ball possession wasn’t as lopsided as during the first half.  In the 69th minute the Rhinos brought the game level courtesy of a shot by Darren Spicer at the top of the box.

As the clocked ticked towards the 90 minute mark it looked like a match destined for extra time. The game was well into stoppage time when Eric Brunner bombed the ball up field into the Rochester box.  Rochester defeneder, Frankie Sanfilippo, tried to head the ball clear but instead it smacked directly into Lenhart.  The ball took a bounce and as Lenhart lept into the air and knocked the ball past the keeper and into the corner of the goal.

Columbus will now face the Charleston Battery at home on Tuesday July 6th in the quarterfinal match.

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Crew are ‘one and done’ against Chivas

Posted on 03 July 2010 by jzidar

Saturday Chivas USA traveled to Columbus to face the undefeated Crew hoping to be the first team to notch a win against the defending Supporters Shield winners.  Just a week after the Crew defeated New England 3-2 on a stoppage time goal by Robbie Rogers they once again left their fans biting their nails until the final minute.







Bench: Schoeni, Iro, O’Rourke(Padula 66′), Ekpo(Gaven 81′), Garey(Lenhart 75′), Renteria, Herrera

Chivas USA






Bench: Guppy, Borja, Romero, Saragosa(Lahoud 83′), Macotelo, Chijindu(Braun 92′), Santos(Padilla 90′)

The Crew dominated the majority of play in the first half managing seven shots, four of which were on target, and should have gone into the locker room with at least one goal. Meanwhile Chivas only had four looks at goal but failed to put any on frame or cause Hesmer to make a save. However the beautiful game doesn’t always play out as expected and thus the half time whistle blew with the teams still locked at 0-0.

The second half began and it was immediately obvious that momentum had shifted. Chivas was maintaining a majority of possession and really pressed Columbus. When the Crew did have time on the ball they had trouble breaking into the final third and only managed four shots.  The stats don’t often tell the whole story in soccer but this is an exception.  Chivas had 10 shots in the second 45 but their accuracy was still lacking with them only placing 3 of them on goal.

A lack of finishing was the story of the day for both teams. With the exception of a scorching blast by Moffat in the 27th minute Columbus’ best attempts came off the head of Lenhart who was an aerial threat all match.  Time and time again the Crew sent the ball in from the wings towards the flying golden afro but neither Schelotto, Gaven or Rogers could manage to provide a cross with enough speed for Lenhart to redirect with any power.  Every cross was a high floating ball rather then the low flying, rocket paced crosses forwards really need to get good power off the redirect.  Chivas faired no better when it came to placing the ball in the net. In the 58th minute Chivas made their way into the Columbus box due to a series of deft passes and some fancy footwork on the end line by Sacha Kljestan. Bornstein received the ball at the top of the six yard box and had Hesmer beat when he shot far post but the ball lacked pace and Padula ran in at the last second to clear it off the line.  Not even 30 seconds late Chivas yet again was able to sneak inside the Crew’s 18 and this time Justin Braun got a shot at the top of the 6 yard box and yet again Padula flew in to save the day and headed the ball off the goal line.

As the clock ticked down emotions were running high and both teams were playing a bit reckless in an attempt to claim three points.  Chivas has always been known has a physical team and a club that wasn’t afraid to get a little dirty at times.  A lot of that was attributed to the leadership of Preki, who was the coach from 2007-2009, and if that is the case than while the former Everton man may no longer lead the team his ideals still remain.  Chivas committed multiple hard fouls against the Crew throughout the match and got away with it more often than not.  But finally in the 88th minute the referee, Jeff Gontarek, made the call that mattered. The Crew had earned a free kick 25 yards out and has usual Schelotto stood patiently over the ball was his comrades positioned themselves in the box.  Schelotto sent the ball soaring across the box towards the head of Chad Marshall, the 2008 and 2009 MLS Defender of the year who notched four goals each of his award winning seasons as well as two additional goals in the ’08 playoffs. As Marshall left his feet Justin Braun grabbed the back of the Columbus defender and took him to the ground just outside the 6 yard box.  Gontarek had no choice but to point to the spot. Columbus may have had trouble with finishing but when it comes to penalties Schelotto is deadly having taken 12 during his Crew career 10 of which went straight in and one which was blocked but was immediately knocked back in by the Argentine legend.  Schelotto pounded the ball just to the left of Thornton who got his fingertips on it but didn’t provide enough resistance to stop the shot.  Chivas coach Martin Vasquez had questions about the play that led to the penalty kick,  “I have my doubts about the previous foul that led to that play. Thats the empty feeling that it leaves you after the game. We had chances, we played well against a very good team and we go home empty so we’re disappointed.”

Player Ratings

(On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best)

Hesmer: 6 (Played solid after a shaky performance last week. Came up with a couple big saves)

Hejduk: 6 (Nothing remarkable on either side of the ball)

Brunner: 5 (Still handles the ball sloppy at times and continues to make poor decisions when it comes to dropping the ball to Hesmer. Should be sat in favor of Iro til he can prove he is back in form)

Marshall: 6 (Held the back line together despite them overall not playing their best. Drew the foul that led to the game winning penalty)

Padula: 7 (Got beat speed wise a couple times but as usual made up for it with his positioning. Cleared the ball off the goal ling two separate times to keep the Crew in the game)

Carroll: 5 (Continues to have issues with his first touch as well as his distribution)

Gaven: 6 (A different Eddie than the week before. Smart decisions on and off the ball but didn’t lead the attack like he had against New England)

Moffat: 6 ( Had a wicked shot off a free kick that forced Thornton make a big save. Involved himself in the attack and the defense but his distribution from the middle leaves something to be desired)

Rogers: 6 (Like Eddie, he had a quiet match.  Didn’t run at defenders or provide solid crosses. Seemed to be pushed up a little higher than usual)

Schelotto: 7 (Didn’t accomplish a whole lot up top and wasn’t able to connect with Lenhart very well. Scored the game winning penalty but then again he has only missed from the spot once for the Crew so the outcome is to be expected)

Lenhart: 6 (Did a lot of running and fighting without much to show for it. Needed better service from the wings for his aerial game to be effective)

O’Rourke: 6 (No real change in play be it better or worse when he replaced Padula. Didn’t make much of an impact despite having fresh legs)

Garey: 7 (Revived the offense a bit with his speed and presence of mind when it came to making runs and linking with Schelotto)

Ekpo: 6 (Didn’t have the opportunity to change the game due to the few minutes he had on the field and the fact that Chivas was to tired to chase him and would just stall his attack with fouls)

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The Crew drown in the Rapids

Posted on 03 July 2010 by jzidar

The Crew went into Commerce City, Colorado hoping to put a positive footnote on what was turning out to be their worst week of play in 2010. Unfortunately for the black and gold the nightmare wasn’t over yet…







Bench: Gruenebaum, Zayner(Brunner 53′), Francis, Ekpo(Moffat 80′), Renteria(Padula 86′), Oughton, Garey






Bench: Joyce, Palguta(Baudet 76′), Smith(Ballouchy 75′), Thompson(Casey 65′), LaBauex, Amarikwa, Lopez

Head coach Robert Warzycha returned to Columbus ahead of the team to attend his daughters graduation and so it fell to Technical Director Brian Bliss and Assistant coaches Mike Lapper, Ricardo Iribarren and Vadim Kirillov to lead the Crew against the Rapids.  The Crew coaching staff chose not to stick with the starting lineup that had battled San Jose to a 2-2 draw just three days earlier.  Columbus hasn’t been able to maintain a true ‘starting 11’ so far in 2010 due to injuries, suspensions and national team callups but the men that took the field Saturday night were as close as the Crew have gotten to their first choice lineup lately.

Moffat returned to the center of the park despite being a weak link in the midfield for a majority of the games lately. Previously, Gaven had posted up in the center with Carroll against San Jose with Renteria taking his place on the right side. While the return of Moffat to the lineup wasn’t necessarily a positive move, especially considering the fact that the tandem of Rogers, Gaven and Renteria had worked quite well against the Earthquakes, the omission of Jed Zayner from the back line allowed the fans a momentarily sigh of relief.

Zayner had seen large increase in playtime during the 2009 season and proved himself to be a capable replacement as a outside back should Hejduk or Padula pick up a knock.  As 2009 wore on and Hejduk’s form continued to drop, especially in the 2009 playoff series against Real Salt Lake.  preseason of 2010 had some fans discussing the possibility of taking away the starting right back position from the much beloved Columbus captain, Hejduk, and handing the position to Zayner.  If the coaching staff was aware of the fans concerns they didn’t listen and so far in 2010 Hejduk has maintained his position at right back and proven that the end of ’09 was merely a short slump.  A week before what was undoubtedly one of the most important matches of the Crew’s 2010 season, the ‘Battle of the Best’, Hejduk picked up a hamstring injury. Danny O’Rourke had also picked up an injury and so Zayner went on to start against LA and again four days later against San Jose.  Despite his best efforts Zayner ultimately lead to the downfall of the Crew in both matches. In the LA match Zayner left his man, Michael Stephens, unmarked inside the box on a Galaxy counter attack and Stephens put his team ahead with free volley from 12 yards out.  LA bunkered for the remainder of the game before getting another quick breakaway goal to defeat the Crew 2-0.  Four days later at San Jose Zayner got the start yet again and like before he had made a slight defensive mistake that turned three points into one. The Crew led the Earthquakes 2-1 with less than 10 minutes remaining in the match when Zayner unnecessarily fouled Bobby Convey along the left side, deep in the Crew end of the field.  Convey served in a perfect ball which was knocked in by Chris Wondolowski.  The game ended 2-2 and the Crew left San Jose wondering what went wrong. After all that it wasn’t surprising to find Columbus’ starting lineup for the Colorado match lacking Zayner’s name.

Both teams came out and played lazy soccer right from the start. Neither team seemed to really care about the match and it didn’t get any better as the game wore on.  As the teams came out of the locker rooms it was apparent that their attitudes hadn’t changed and the game was headed for a 0-0 draw.

In the 53rd minute Eric Brunner was subbed off due to what was described as ‘hip tightness’ and Zayner came on in his place.

In the 74th minute Columbus had what was their best chance all game when Gaven intercepted a terrible pass by Mastroeni around midfield. Gaven raced toward goal and at upon reaching the top of the box he sent the ball along the ground between to defenders to Lenhart. Lenhart had the presence of mind to heel pass the ball to Schelotto who was racing into the box and was wide open. It looked as if a goal was imminent and then to the surprise of everyone Schelotto sent the ball careening into the stands. The Argentine was 12 yards out with no defender in sight and powered the ball over the crossbar.

A minute later the Rapids dismantled the Columbus defense with some deft passing only to have Cummings’ shot be denied by the post. 30 seconds after that at midfield Lenhart fouled Mastroeni and then proceeded to poke the ball into Mastroeni while he was still kneeling on the ground. Mastroeni then lunged at Lenhart and it appeared as if he tried to bunch him in the groin. The referee issued a yellow to Lenhart and a red to the Colorado captain. Mastroeni spent the next minute berating the referee before finally allowing himself to be led off the field.

Despite being a man up the Crew didn’t amp up their attack and utilize their man advantage. With both teams playing as if sedated the game seemed destined to end 0-0 but then in the 85th minute the Zayner curse struck again…  Colorado earned a free kick towards midfield.  As Jaime Smith prepared to launch the ball into the box players took up their marks and jockeyed for position. Smith sent the ball towards the back post.  Drew Moor caught Zayner ball watching as he dove into the air and placed the ball between Hesmer and the post to put Colorado up 1-0.

The Rapids would make the lone goal stand up over the final minutes of the match and the Crew would return home from their two game road trip with only one of six possible points.  In the span of eight days Columbus went from being undefeated to having two losses tacked onto their record. The World Cup break couldn’t have arrived at more appropriate time.

(It needs to be said that in no way is Jed Zayner a terrible player. He is being groomed to replace not just any right back, but team captain and US international, Frankie Hejduk. Those are big shoes to fill but Zayner has the football skills and charisma to take on the task. He has proven numerous times that he has the skills necessary to compete at the MLS level and above. He was part of the historic 1-0 victory at the Monster’s Cave in Costa Rica against Saprissa during the ’09/’10 CONCACAF Champions League. He never shuns an opportunity to interact with the Nordecke and pump up the fan base. He does fabulous work with his charity, Filleo (Join, Donate, Volunteer).  Padula and Hejduk are in their mid 30s and only have so many more games left in them.  Zayner, along with the likes of Danny O’Rourke, Andy Iro and Eric Brunner, is the future of the Columbus back line.  Zayner is merely experiencing a run of bad form and unlucky breaks, just like all players experience during their career. He will rebound and when he does expect him to be playing at a level even higher than before.)

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