Thursday, April 9, 2009

Moffat to Return for Crew Easter Resurrection Revival Meeting

If there is anything good to say about the Crew’s abysmal 2009 start, it is the fact that teams are already overlooking Columbus on the schedule, and this can give the Crew the stealth factor that contributed to their 2008 success, when opponents did not always get fully loaded for the team that spent most of 2007 in the basement.

Case in point: Colorado Rapids Coach Gary Smith was asked on Fox Football Fone-In on Monday who he had his eye on as the major competition this season.

Here was his answer: “I think Chivas has done a great job given their injury list … Seattle, is a new franchise and has a multitude of bodies that Sigi’s trying to build and that he’s done a wonderful job with. I don’t think you can ever write off Houston or New England. You know, they’ve shown the way they perform. The consistency that they have will always give them an opportunity and put them in a position to challenge for an MLS Cup.”

Who is missing from this picture?

Smith’s Rapids face the Crew at Columbus this Saturday, and yet the 2008 MLS Cup Champions appear to be the last thing on the Colorado skipper’s mind.

You can hardly blame him.

The Crew are off to their worst start in 5 years, with no victories in 4 games, and they are coming off a downright embarrassing 0-2 western road trip where they lost two games in 4 days and looked like they might struggle against teams from Women’s Professional Soccer.

Crew Keeper Will Hesmer has given up 8 goals in 4 games for a 2 goals-against average, the worst in MLS. In 2008 Hesmer gave up a total of 36 goals. In 2009, he is on pace to give up 60.

On the offensive side, the Crew’s 4 goals in 4 games puts them on pace to score 30 goals in the season. Last year they tallied 50.

Meanwhile, the Rapids are off to a 2-1 start and are on a good run, having beaten the LA Galaxy twice in a week, most recently a 4-2 victory on penalty kicks where they came from behind with a man down from a red card in US Open Cup play.

Rapids forwards Conor Casey and Omar Cummings are on fire with 5 goals between them in just 3 games. Casey is second and Cummings is fourth in the league in goals scored.

To make matters worse for Columbus, their injury and ineligibility problems continue with Hejduk (hamstring) likely out for Saturday along with Midfielder Robbie Rogers (left hamstring) and defender Chad Marshall, who might have another concussion and is actually openly discussing the possibility that it could be career-ending.

And big Andy Iro is unavailable because of the questionable red card he got against Chivas on Sunday.

The good news for the Crew is that central midfielder Adam Moffat is ready to play and will make his return on Saturday. This will move Ekpo to the wing where he belongs and hopefully give Columbus a boost. Lord knows they need it.

The Rapids lead the all-time series versus the Crew with 14 victories, 8 losses and 7 ties. The Crew won both encounters last year, 2-1 at home on June 28 (video) and 2-0 July 27 (video).

Columbus Projected Lineup
William Hesmer
Jed Zayner
Chad Marshall
Danny O'Rourke
Gino Padula
Eddie Gaven
Brian Carroll
Emmanuel Ekpo
Robbie Rogers
G. Barros Schelotto
Alejandro Moreno

Colorado Projected Lineup
Preston Burpo
Kosuke Kimura
Ugo Ihemelu
Cory Gibbs
Jordn Harvey
Nick LaBrocca
Pablo Mastroeni
Mehdi Ballouchy
Colin Clark
Conor Casey
Omar Cummings

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

United States Senate Honors Crew For MLS Cup Victory

Ohio Sens. George V. Voinovich (R) and Sherrod Brown (D) co-sponsored S.Res.61, a resolution commending the Columbus Crew on winning the 2008 MLS Cup. The resolution was introduced on March 2 and passed unanimously on March 23 .

El Luchador memorializes this occasion by publishing for posterity the full text of the resolution as follows:

Whereas, on Sunday, November 23, 2008, the Columbus Crew defeated the New York Red Bulls by a score of 3-1 to win the 2008 Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup;

Whereas the Columbus Crew led the league with a record of 17 wins, 7 losses, and 6 draws and scored 50 regular season goals and 8 playoff goals;
Whereas Columbus Crew head coach Sigi Schmid was named the 2008 MLS Coach of the Year and became the first MLS Coach to win an MLS Cup with two different teams;

Whereas Columbus Crew forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto was named the 2008 MLS Most Valuable Player and led the league with 19 regular season assists and 6 playoff assists;

Whereas Columbus Crew defender Chad Marshall was named the 2008 MLS Defender of the Year;

Whereas Columbus Crew forward Alejandro Moreno led the team in scoring with 9 regular season goals and 1 playoff goal;

Whereas Columbus Crew goalkeeper Will Hesmer had 17 wins, 97 saves, and 10 shutouts in 29 regular season games;
Whereas Alejandro Moreno, Chad Marshall, and Frankie Hejduk all scored goals in the MLS Cup Championship game;

Whereas the Columbus Crew was the winner of the 2008 MLS Supporters' Shield for being the team with the best regular season record;
Whereas Columbus Crew Captain Frankie Hejduk led the team to its first MLS Cup since the team's creation in 1994; and

Whereas the Columbus Crew, along with its supporters, has energized Columbus and brought great pride to the State of Ohio: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate:

(1) congratulates the Columbus Crew on winning the 2008 Major League Soccer Cup;

(2) recognizes the achievements of Sigi Schmid, Chad Marshall, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, and the other members of the Columbus Crew for their tireless work ethic and championship form;

(3) salutes the support of the Columbus Crew fan groups, including the Hudson Street Hooligans, the Crew Union, La Turbina Amarilla, and the rest of the Nordecke for unwavering dedication to the Columbus Crew; and

(4) expresses the hope that the Columbus Crew and Major League Soccer will continue to inspire soccer fans and players throughout Ohio, the United States, and the world.

Monday, April 6, 2009

0-2-2 After Back-to-Back Losses Out West

The Crew’s 2-1 loss to Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles Sunday night (Video) has left them at 0-2-2, their worst start since 2004.

Here’s some good news: That year, the Crew went on to rebound and win the Supporter’s Shield for the best overall season record in MLS. After losing three straight to start the season that year, the Crew started an 8-game unbeaten streak with a 1-1 tie to Dallas at home on May 1.

Here’s hoping Saturday’s match with Colorado is the start of something like that for the Crew.

It’s not looking good. Schelotto was largely listless, Moreno was absent, Ekpo was inconsistent, Gaven got great chances that he couldn’t finish, and while Iro had good moments (like the goal), his lumbering indecision in the backfield left us vulnerable. Both the goals against us were soft.

Frankie, we need you back.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Crew v. Chivas USA @ Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif, Sunday, April 5, 8 p.m.

The last time the Crew were at the Home Depot Center, they lifted their first MLS Cup. On Sunday they return under much different circumstances, sitting 11th in the league with a 0-1-2 record after a dispiriting loss to Real Salt Lake on national television just three days ago. (Video)

Eddie Gaven’s take on the Real Salt Lake Massacre of 2009: “We didn’t play very good team defense … from the guys in the front all the way to the guys in the back. We had too many gaps, and that made it very easy for them to play.”

Coach Robert Warzycha said, "I think we have to forget as soon as possible that we were the champions last year. We need to forget about it, start to work hard and get some results."
Something has to change if the Black & Gold hope to avoid starting the 2009 campaign with a four-game winless streak, which would be the worst start since 2004.

Captain Frankie Hejduk had been expected to return to the line up at right back but was reported as questionable late Saturday. Hejduk's absence has been noticable as he has been away for a successful two-game stint with the U.S. National Team. Also retuning full strength should be Alejandra Moreno, who played briefly Thursday after returning from international duty with Venezuela. Jason Garey won’t play, and Pat Noonan is still out to injury.

The Crew will need all the help they can get. Chivas are off to their best start in franchise history, having beaten the Colorado Rapids 2-1 in their home opener (Video) and FC Dallas 2-0 last week on the road (Video).

Nine Chivas players are out or injured: Bobby Burling, Dan Kennedy, Ante Razov, Claudio Suarez, Lawson Vaughn, Sasha Victorine, Michael Lahoud, Alecko Eskandarian and Ante Jazic.

Keep an eye on Chivas forward Eduardo Lillingston, who was signed last month from Mexican club Tecos, and scored a goal against Dallas. He was ineffective in a 2-1 win over Colorado on March 21 and was substituted at halftime.

"It's better, I think the whole team played better (last Sunday)," said Chivas coach Predrag Radosavljević (“Preki”). “When the whole team plays better we're hoping that he plays better. We knew that he had experience in Mexico and he’s played quite a few games and we're hoping that he can come here and help us be better.”

The play of Sacha Kljestan also will be key for Chivas. Kljestan is expected to return to the lineup after disappointing international appearances for the U.S.

Kljestan has a goal and an assist in six games against Columbus.

The Crew split the season series last year, winning the home leg 4-3 on April 12 (Video) then losing away 2-0 on May 31 (Video). Chivas leads the all-time series with 4 wins on 12 goals to the Crew’s 2 wins on 10 goals with 2 ties.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Crew Will Bounce Back from RSL Debacle

Reminder: It’s “Columbus Till I Die.” It’s not, “Columbus till we get our asses handed to us.”

The 4-1 loss in Salt Lake City was indeed embarrassing. If you want the details read the Dispatch.

But, let’s not start into, “This is the worst performance ever,” “the team played with no heart,” blah, blah, blah.

There are a lot of factors that contributed to this loss. These are not excuses but facts: It was the first major road trip of the year besides the opener, at altitude (4,220 ft), without Hejduk, with a Moreno who had traveled 14,000 miles, with a Rogers just back from injury, in the cold rain, on a night when our rock Hesmer somehow managed to screw the pooch on back-to-back unassisted goals, the second one like something from the WPS.

But there were positives: Garey’s plucky goal, Marshall’s leadership in the back, Schelotto’s energy and verve (until the end, when all was lost), and Carroll’s playmaking.

I will tell you this, my brothers and sisters in Black & Gold: As sure as Lazarus rose from the tomb, on the soul of Che Guevara, with the blessings of divine providence, the Crew will come back from this, and it will happen sooner than you think.

This is the same team that won the Cup. They are in good hands with the Polish Rifle.

Be true to your school, bitches.

Next stop: Los Angeles. Crew 2, Chivas USA 0.

Columbus Till I DIE!