Crew Crash Back to Earth vs RSL

​The fall back to the Earth is always more sudden than the initial climb. After 2 straight Federico Higuain inspired wins, the air in the Crew’s playoff balloon was popped by Real Salt Lake. RSL was coming into Saturday’s game still atop of the Western Conference with a great chance at taking home the 2013 Supporters shield. Meanwhile, the Crew had come off 2 straight wins, and seemed to finally be playing the football that it is capable of. There was a sense of optimism for perhaps the first time this year for Crew fans coming into the weekend. After the big win against the Toronto and first place New York Red Bulls in the last 2 weeks, another scalp of a first placed team would put the Crew back on the map.  But some things are perhaps easier said than done.

​The Crew was still without Gruenebaum in goal due to injury, and youngster Ben Speas was given a starting spot in the squad for Justin Meram. Agustin Viana continues his return to form after his long injury layoff, while Danny O’Rourke settled into his favored midfield role. The Crew started off decent, but was soon left behind by the pressing and quick passing of Real Salt Lake. As the game was about to head into the halftime intermission, RSL struck first via a deflected free kick. It was a cruel blow for the Crew right before halftime, but it was definitely deserved from a Real Salt Lake perspective. The second half started how the first half ended and it wasn’t pretty from the Crew’s perspective. RSL was ruthless in front of goal, and soon had put up 3 more unanswered goals on the men in Yellow. Even Kyle Beckerman was able to score 2 goals and solidify RSL’s claim as the best team in the West. As the game entered second half stoppage time, the mood around the Crew bench was solemn. As the minutes waned away, Pipa Higuain lost his head. In an act of frustration, he talked back to referee Silviu Petrescu and was shown a 2nd yellow card for dissent. It’s tough to see your captain and best player lose his cool, but after a match as draining as that, it’s nice to see someone with passion for the team. Receiving such a stupid second yellow card at such a crucial point in the season is never going to be a good thing, but I don’t necessarily blame the Argentine. Columbus needs more players that have some sort of emotional investment in the team’s progress, and actually want to win. It’s comforting as a fan to see a big name player just as frustrated with a bad performance as the people singing in the stands. Pipa will miss the next 2 games against Seattle and Houston due to suspension. Columbus will have to cope without the playmaker, and need players like Arrieta and Oduro to pick up the slack. It’s not the end of the world to lose him for 2 games, but given the nature of his role in the team, it’s going to be difficult. After the red card, the game ended up as a 4-0 loss for the Crew and another week of what ifs and missed opportunities.
​The pressure on Robert Warzycha has never been higher in his 5 years in charge. There is a considered, yet growing, constituency of Crew fans that aren’t happy with the Pole’s management of the team. The new owners coming into the team, coupled with the steady decline in performance in the last couple of years, has meant that many fans faith in Warzycha’s managing ability have hit rock bottom. Precourt Sports Ventures seem content to ease into their ownership, without making any premature decisions about how the club is run, but I’m not sure how Anthony Precourt’s vision of the team corresponds with this set of management. Warzycha is within the last couple months of his contract, and will probably not be resigned for next year.  Sacking Warzycha in the middle of the season isn’t going to magically turn the Crew into a playoff contender, but the voices of dissention among the Crew faithful aren’t staying quiet. Given the fact that Robert is guaranteed his salary through the end of this year, whether he stays or goes, makes the decision to sack him a lot more complicated. It’ll be interesting to see the direction PSV take, and if they see Warzycha as the man to take the Crew into the upper echelons of the MLS.
​Back to the field, and the playoff picture is bleak. It’s gotten to the point where it’s probably safe to say that Columbus’ fate lies in the hands of the team around them just as much as it does with the Crew themselves. With only 29 points after 25 games, Columbus remains 8th place in the Eastern conference. Columbus can’t afford to lose many more games if they want to avoid losing out of the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

About Dustyn Richardson

Managing editor and Houston Dynamo writer for Total-MLS. Fan of all Houston sports teams and Manchester United supporter. Still angry at Bud Selig for moving the Astros to the American League.