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Crew Routs United

  • George Pennington
  • Mon Jun 28 2010, 1:56pm GMT

The Columbus Crew returned from the World Cup break Saturday night to host DC United at Crew Stadium. With their 2-0 victory, the Crew broke their three-game winless streak, and also snapped United’s three game win streak. The Black and Gold continue to race arm in arm with the New York Red Bulls for dominance in the Eastern Conference.

When the starting XI came on the field, it appeared that the Crew would be taking an aggressive approach – striker Emilio Renteria made a rare start. They did not disappoint. Early on and throughout the game, Renteria habitually tested DC keeper Troy Perkins's resolve with rocketing shots from distance.

The Crew created several scoring chances in the first half but failed to convert. United countered with chances of their own, mostly due to the perseverance of Chris Pontius and Santino Quaranta. When the half was over, the lack of score did not reflect the heart of the game.

Columbus finally drew blood in the 57th minute when star forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto tapped a loose ball into the net. The questionable goal followed an apparent handball that went unnoticed by the referee.

Thirty minutes later, a second tally was added as Eric Brunner headed in the second goal of his MLS career. Schelotto's service delivered from the corner got a little redirect from Steven Lenhart who had come onto the pitch 10 minutes prior.

In added time, Lenhart – after being pulled down in the box – leveled a penalty kick right into Perkins's chest.

Columbus will host the Rochester Rhinos this Tuesday in an Open Cup round of 16 match.

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English Get Yanked into a Draw

  • George Pennington
  • Sun Jun 13 2010, 9:15pm GMT

Since the groups were drawn six months ago, a steadily growing buzz finally erupted into a roar with what may have been the most anticipated game in US Soccer history. Complete with jeers from both sides of the Atlantic, the world watched on Saturday as the USA faced off against England in the World Cup. This was their first meeting in a World Cup game since 1950, where the USA provided England with a 1-0 loss.

England, heavily favored in the FIFA rankings and in worldwide public opinion, saw it as a matter of national pride as they commonly take credit for the invention of the Beautiful Game. There was also a matter of revenge involved that has been 60 years in the making.

American soccer has never been quite like football in the rest of the world. While most countries revere the sport, Americans have typically placed their interest in baseball, basketball, and American football. Since that last meeting in 1950, however, US Soccer has grown by leaps and bounds. The American side now boasts homegrown players who are stars in the English Premier League and other respected leagues across Europe and around the world. In addition, the creation of Major League Soccer in the US has deepened the talent pool for the team, and also enticed some European players to come to the states.

The game itself played out like a rivalry in the Premier League. The English came out strong in the beginning and took the lead as captain Steven Gerrard scored early on. The Americans responded not by becoming flustered or hurried, but calmed down their play and developed world-class focus.

Thirty-six minutes after Gerrard’s convincing goal, the US fired back. Clint Dempsey sent a soft rolling shot toward the net. England goalkeeper Robert Green made a blunder that is rarely seen at this level of play; he let the easy save go right through his hands.

The underdog Americans would create several more scoring chances as would the mighty English, but neither would be able to convert. US keeper Tim Howard made seven saves on the day, making up for a lagging performance from captain Carlos Bocanegra.

The resulting 1-1 draw would have several effects. First, USA fans will be content with the draw while the English supporters will likely feel robbed of a sure victory. Second, Fabio Capello may rethink his goal keeping position, an issue that plagued him prior to the match.

Both England and the USA are favored to move past the group stage. The USA plays Slovenia on June 18 at 10:00am EST after which England will face Algeria at 2:30pm.

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Crew Miss Vital Point, Share Top Spot

  • George Pennington
  • Sun Jun 6 2010, 10:47pm GMT

In their third game in eight days, the Columbus Crew played as if the altitude outside Denver was perfectly natural. Their play reflected a more conservative approach seen earlier in the season: the attack wasn't aggressive and they relied heavily on their stingy defense, but there were no signs of overt fatigue or mistakes common in such conditions.

For the Colorado Rapids, the altitude was perfectly natural. Yet with players like Omar Cummings, Pablo Mastroeni and Conor Casey at the helm, Colorado's offense never truly took shape and they assumed a defensive posture as well.

At the end of a scoreless first half, it appeared that the Crew might be forced to settle for a point. A draw would keep them one point ahead of conference rival New York, who had just disposed of Chivas 1-0.

The second half offered more of the first half to the point of being tedious. The possibility of a scoreless draw seemed imminent. It was as if nothing could be done to give either side a clear advantage.

Then the miracle happened. Mastroeni lost his temper after a reckless tackle and a ball kicked into his chest while he was down (courtesy of Stephen Lenhart). After reaching and shoving for Lenhart from his position on the ground, Pablo was ejected from the field via a straight red card. Although the penalty may have been harsh, the Crew now had a clear advantage.

Columbus pressed forward, now seeking a road victory that appeared to be clearly within their reach.

Only collaboration of two Crew defenders could make the impossible possible. First, a useless foul committed by Andy Iro against Cummings resulted in a free kick from well outside the box. Second, a defensive effort from Jed Zayner made him appear more like a spectator than a player. As Smith served, Drew Moor outplayed Zayner in the box and headed home his first goal of the season.

Up one player but down one point, Columbus sought an equalizer in vain. When the whistle sounded, the Rapids kept all three points with a final score of 1-0.
Columbus now shares the top spot in the Eastern Conference with the New York Red Bulls at 21 points. The Crew will play again at home against DC United after the World Cup Break on June 26.

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Earthquakes Give Up Two

  • George Pennington
  • Thu Jun 3 2010, 9:14pm GMT

Away at San Jose for a midweek contest, the Columbus Crew maintained the aggressive spirit exhibited in last week's home loss to Los Angeles.

It appeared early on that the road trip would yield a quick three points for the visitors as Eddie Gaven scored in the 5th minute. Earthquakes goalkeeper Joe Cannon made an initial save on Columbus forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto but couldn't keep the ball secure. Jason Garey knocked it loose from Cannon's feet and put it across the net where an unmarked Gaven tapped it in.

The Quakes responded in kind less than a minute later. Arturo Alvarez sent a rocketing shot to the back of the net from 18 yards as the second best defense in the league watched on helplessly.

The remainder of the first half and the beginning of the second turned into a battle of the 'keepers as both teams saw numerous scoring chances.

Advantage was taken by Columbus in minute 69 as Crew fans saw a familiar sight. A perfectly served corner kick from Schelotto found defender Chad Marshall, whose near post header put the 2008 MLS Cup Champions ahead 2-1.

Just as it appeared that San Jose was about to suffer another loss at home, the Crew's Jed Zayner handed the Quakes a lifeline after a foul on Bobby Convey. From the left of the box, Convey sent the ball in toward substitute forward Scott Sealy, who flicked it on to Chris Wondolowski. The resulting header made for Wondolowski's 6th goal of the season and an equalizer for San Jose.

The resulting 2-2 tie keeps Columbus at the top of the Eastern Conference with 21 points. They will play one more game this Saturday in Colorado before the World Cup break.

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Crew Do Everything But Score

  • George Pennington
  • Sun May 30 2010, 6:13pm GMT

The much-awaited match between the last two unbeaten teams in MLS finally landed at Crew Stadium Saturday night, as Columbus hosted the L.A. Galaxy.

The Crew went into the locker room at halftime down 1-0, thanks to an early goal from Galaxy midfielder Michael Stevens. Steven Lenhart nearly equalized in the 15th minute but narrowly missed a header on a well-placed cross from Robbie Rogers.

In the 83rd minute, midfielder Chris Klein came on the field to replace Sean Franklin and give the Galaxy the insurance they were seeking. Klein stripped Crew defender Andy Iro of the ball and found lone Galaxy forward Tristan Bowen streaking toward the 18 for an easy shot.

Bowen's strike put the game out of reach at 2-0 and prompted a mass exodus from the stands – even the supporters in the Nordecke realized the game was over.

Columbus, playing more aggressively and cohesively than in previous matches, and outshooting the visitors 21-3, were simply unable to capitalize on multiple scoring chances.

Minutes 74 through 78 saw on flurry of chances for the Black and Gold. Forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto leveled three corner kicks in quick succession – one of which Iro knocked off the far post – and forward Jason Garey had a potential equalizer called back for offside.

Despite the loss, the Crew remain at the top of the Eastern Conference, five points ahead of the New York Red Bulls. The Crew will have road games at San Jose and Colorado before the World Cup break.

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