Every team who wants to be considered serious needs a signature win. The Crew hasn’t had that one moment yet this season, but a win in New York against the red hot Red Bulls would be a perfect chance to silence any critics. With one of the best road records in the MLS, the Crew need to keep that impetus going as the season hits its stride. Columbus has had an up and down last few weeks, with a couple losses at home, but a big win in Toronto. Consistency is imperative during this stretch of the season, so to string together a couple of impressive results would do wonders for the teams collective confidence.
The only change to the Crew team from last week was in the defense. Brazilian defender Glauber was suspended due to yellow card accumulation, so Kevan George stepped in to take his place. Chad Marshall was still out due to injury, so Eric Gehrig continues alongside George. Jairo Arrieta’s appeal to reduce his suspension was denied, so Dominic Oduro stayed up top to lead the line, with Justin Meram keeping his place in behind. New York started with a similar lineup that they have used in their great recent run, although Dax McCarty was back from injury and was preferred to Juninho.
When playing the Red Bulls, it’s always important to come out of the gates strong. New York is a great team, and getting an early lead would be the perfect way to calm nerves and settle into the game. So when Dominic Oduro put the ball past Robles in only the 2nd minute, it was the perfect start of the Black and Yellow. After a scrap around the top of the area, the ball found its way to the Ghanaian, who took it past a hapless Olave, and slid it past the on rushing Robles. Although it was the perfect start in terms of the scoreline, it came at a price. Oduro took the brunt of the collision between striker and goalie, and had to be helped off the field and eventually replaced by youngster Aaron Schoenfeld. Schoenfeld is a good prospect for the Crew, and has a lot of potential to be a quality MLS striker, but he was completely outclassed by Jamison Olave. Oduro’s pace would have put the Red Bull defense on the back foot, but Schoenfeld isn’t that kind of player, and Olave was able to use his experience to shut him out of the game. Therefore, it was up to the Crew’s Argentinian playmaker to make things happen. Higuain looked to get on the ball in wide areas, trying to exploit the perceived defensive frailties of the Red Bull wide midfielders, but the Crew couldn’t get a strong hold of the ball for any sustained period of time.
At 1-0, the game was starting to come to a slight standstill when the magic of Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill came to light. A brilliant through ball from the Australian found Thierry Henry in front of Gruenebaum’s net, and an equally brilliant lobbed finish put the Red Bulls on level terms. Kevan George was particularly culpable in the buildup with a misplaced clearance, but it’s hard to justify giving Thierry so much space in behind the defense. The game went into halftime tied at 1, and the Red Bulls on the front foot.
The second half opened up a little bit, with the Crew getting some good possession around the Red Bull area. Justin Meram, who missed a couple of very presentable chances in the first half, was making darting runs behind the Red Bull defense but wasn’t able to latch on to any throughballs. Finally, in the 73rd minute, the Crew was given a penalty for a foul on Justin Meram from Kosuke Kimura. It was a very contentious penalty as it looked as though Meram had completely missed the ball, but the referee pointed to the spot citing a push in the back of the Crew number 9. Higuain stepped up and, without a stutter this time, put the ball past Robles. Up 2-1 in the last 15 minutes of the game is a great position and a win away in New York would have been a huge result for Columbus. As the minutes flew by, Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill grew more influential as the game went on.
The Crew’s defense withstood a couple of close calls (and a goal line clearance from Kevan George) around Andy Gruenebaum’s goal in the final minutes, but it was almost inevitable when the equalizer came. In the 92nd minute, the ball fell to Jamison Olave in the Crew penalty box, and his emphatic finish extended the Red Bulls unbeaten run and sent the Crew home with only 1 point. It was a great finish for a defender, but he was allowed way too much time and space in the box at such a late period of the game.
Anytime you can go into New York Red Bull arena and come away with 1 point, it should feel like a job well done, but given the circumstances of the final few minutes, it can only mean heart break for Crew supporters. The penalty was a controversial call, but getting into second half stoppage time a goal up and not finishing out the game is inexcusable. A huge bright spot however, was the play of Eric Gehrig. Gehrig was monumental in the heart of the Crew defense against some great forward players. He held his own, and was a huge reason that the Crew were able to come across with a lot of respect. Losing a player of such caliber as Chad Marshall is always going to be tough, and it’s great to see players like Gehrig stepping up when the coach calls on him and performing.
The Crew’s next game is at home to the Houston Dynamo on June 1st.
(video courtesy of TheCrew.com)