The first-place Columbus Crew. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Sure, it only lasted until Wednesday, when New England beat D.C. to move back on top of the East, but for four days the Crew enjoyed the rarified air of first place in the brutal Eastern Conference.
The fact that Columbus beat red-hot FC Dallas to move into first made the accomplishment even more impressive. The Hoops were rolling behind Kenny Cooper’s impressive scoring run, but the Crew was able to step up and halt the Hoops.
SBI correspondents Brant Guillory and Casey Corcoran took in the action and shared their thoughts on the match with us:
Crew making winning a routine
By BRANT GUILLORY
Ho-hum. Another Crew win. Another come from behind. Another brilliant performance conducting the orchestra of the offense by MVP-in-waiting Guillermo Barros es-Schelotto. Another goal-of-the-week nominee from an unexpected source, and another Western Conference team leaves Central Ohio without any points.
Oh yeah, and Danny O’Rourke makes another bonehead play that requires a defensive miracle to overcome. Look, Danny’s a hometown boy, and he’s one of the hardest workers on the team, but he’s 4th (at best) in the pecking order for a defensive midfield position. Trying to get his grit and hustle on the field, Schmid tried him first at center-back, then at outside fullback. It’s safe to say it’s been a train wreck. Danny leads the league in penalty kicks conceded, and if the stat were kept, would be fighting with the Galaxy defense for "idiot errors". The Crew needs to find someone in need of a defensive midfielder (either LA team, or maybe New York?) and try to recoup a draft pick or two after trading away a ton of them over the last 8 months in building the current roster. We love you Danny, but you’re killing us.
Now to the man busy covering up Danny’s gaffes. Someone tell me why Chad Marshall can’t sniff the national team? I get that he’s had some concussion issues. But among the US-eligible defenders in the MLS, find me one who is consistently better than Marshall. He’s got 4 caps, but nothing since 2005, when he played in a few World Cup qualifiers in Central America after the US had already clinched their trip to Germany. Since Bradley replaced Arena as the head coach, Marshall hasn’t even been called into camp. As good as Califf and Cherundolo and the others are, Marshall deserves a chance to compete with them for a slot on the team.
Back to the Dallas game. Did you notice Kenny Cooper on the stat sheet? Kenny Cooper took 8 shots; even got 2 of them on the goal. Oh yeah, Cunningham (The Crew’s wayward son) scored the goal for Dallas, not tearing-up-the-league-since-he-didn’t-get-to-go-to-Europe Cooper. Why, you ask? Guess who was glued to Cooper for the entire game? That "Marshall" guy…
Columbus played a flat first half. A mixture of bonehead errors (O’Rourke), bye week doldrums (Gaven and Moreno), fatigue (Noonan and Rogers), and injury rust ) Padula combined into a sour stew of bad footie for 45 minutes. Thank goodness for William Hesmer back there patrolling the pipes, or Columbus might have been down 2-0 or worse at halftime.
I don’t know what kind of pep talk Sigi gave the team at halftime. He’s not the most inspirational orator in the league, so it could’ve just as easily been Frankie Hejduk surfing a locker-room bench to lighten everyone up, or Moreno exhorting the team to play as smart as they play hard. But the second half looked completely different. It was almost as if the Black and Gold suddenly realized it wasn’t the bye week anymore, and that this game counted. The second half, The Crew started connecting the passes, and making the ‘smart’ pass instead of the ‘trying to get on SportsCenter’ pass. Even The Crew’s first goal, which was started on a long cross by Moreno, was a great series of possession passes, until the open guy appeared in front of the net.
Since the All-Star break, Columbus has 6-of-9 available points, with RSL coming to town (seen their road record lately?) and a return match at Dallas, before their showdown with New England in September. It’s not unrealistic that Columbus could take 10-of-15 points going into the game with the Revs, setting the stage for a chase not merely of the playoffs, but of the Eastern Conference title. Read that again. Columbus a legitimate contender for the Eastern Conference title. You probably thought the odds of that were about as good as Salt Lake being in first place at the All-Star break, eh?
New faces can’t help Hoops keep rolling
By CASEY CORCORAN
If you blinked during the FC Dallas and Columbus Crew game on Saturday, you might have missed the flip in fortunes. In a game mostly controlled by FC Dallas, the Crew needed just three minutes of action to turn a one nil deficient in to a two to one advantage.
The game was a sort of new beginning for FC Dallas. With two new signings starting, I was actually very pleased, well, intrigued with what I saw. I hesitate to say pleased because Jeff Cunningham had some trouble actually doing anything with his well earned chances.
Cunningham earned chance after chance, which ultimately helped dictate a half controlled by FC Dallas. Of course, the problem was he only finished one of those chances, which consequently got him goal number 100 in MLS. Kenny Cooper sort of got pushed out of the spotlight with Cunningham picking his spots in the defense. This is to be expected in their first game as a striking tandem, and I see good things in the future. Cooper nearly scored early on his new favorite shot, that outside the box, hard roller to the opposite post.
Victor Sikora also debuted for the Hoops, and I was pleasantly impressed by him as well. I can distinctly remember one beautiful ball dropped in from the left side early in the game. It appears that, instead of a left mid that looks to score like Arturo Alvarez, Sikora will be a left mid that looks to distribute. In my opinion, the latter is what a left mid is supposed to do.
But of course, the honeymoon could not go on forever, and in just a matter of minutes, FCD’s lead and the game slipped away. A beautiful header set up Brian Carroll for the Crew’s first goal, and Guillermo Barros Schelotto earned his second assist on Brad Evans’ goal.
The interesting thing, to me at least, was how these goals came. Earlier in the year, under Steve Morrow, you could see breakouts and goals coming from a mile away. There was no need for the opposing team to actually string together hard worked chances. Now, these two goals literally popped out of nowhere. And better yet, they were earned.
Things are looking much better now for FCD than earlier in the year. Heck, if not for a loose ball going through Pablo Ricchetti’s legs, FCD might have won. To add two starters who look like upgrades is reason enough for a little optimism in North Texas.
Two other interesting tidbits for FC Dallas came after the game. Ricardinho, the talented young Club Atletico Paranaense loan, returned to his former club this week. I always liked the kid, but ultimately, even with all of his talent, frustration and work ethic did him in. I wish him all the best. Secondly, an interesting article from Buzz over at 3rddegree.net listed away attendance for all MLS teams. Shockingly, guess who was number two on the list, behind Beckham? For one reason or another, FCD is in the number two spot, by an amazing 2,000 people over Chicago, and FCD hasn’t even gone to play the Galaxy yet?! Who knows?