Category Archives: Columbus Crew SC

Columbus Crew SC

Crew’s Woes Continue

Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

After an exceptional run by the USWNT in the World Cup and an improvement in the USMNT during the Gold Cup , it was hard to watch the Crew, in comparison, lose their last three games in seven days. The losses continue to mount and while the Columbus Crew fans are definitely grateful to have a team, that team has been difficult to watch.

On Saturday, June 29, Columbus Crew took on Orlando City. In a game where the Crew dominated possession and limited Orlando to three shots, they still managed to lose the game 2-0. The best part of the game was honoring former club coach and legend Sigi Schmid into the Crew’s Circle of Honor at halftime. The Crew welcomed the Schmid family, watched tributes to Sigi, and presented the family with a beautiful collage of Sigi’s time in Columbus.

Then on Wednesday, July 3, the Crew traveled to Salt Lake City to take on RSL. Due to the three games in seven days, Caleb Porter made some line up changes. He gave JJ Williams the start at forward and Eduardo Sosa an elusive start in midfield; Niko Hansen returned from wherever Porter has been hiding him to play in the midfield, where he was joined by Ricardo Clark; Aboubacar Keita made his MLS debut at center back; and Joe Bendik made a grab for the starting goalkeeper position again.

While Caleb had limited player selection due to injury and call-ups when rotating his squad, it was nice to see some players who have gotten very little to no playing time a chance to prove if they were hungry enough to unseat the struggling starters.

Unfortunately, the Crew were unable to finish any shots, and Sam Johnson finished a beautiful opportunity by beating both Crognale and Keita to a long ball that they both let bounce over their heads.

Returning home this past Saturday, the Crew played the Seattle Sounders. In a game that honestly felt do or die, the Crew couldn’t hold on to an early lead and lost to Seattle 2-1.

With a slight tweak in the line up we have been seeing recently, Josh Williams stepped in at centerback, but JJ Williams and Joe Bendik kept their starting spots from the RSL game, playing forward and keeper respectively.

The Crew had hope for a possible victory after a PK by Pedro Santos in the 13′. However, Nicolas Lodeiro, who spent a lot of time rolling on the grass with dire injuries at MAPFRE Stadium, seemed to be the difference maker for Seattle. He sank a PK in the 56′ and scored a final goal for the Sounders in extra time. At the end of the game, multiple Crew players collapsed to the ground–exhausted from giving it their all, their all not being enough.

After the 1-2 loss to Seattle, multiple Crew players collapsed to the ground — exhausted from giving it their all, their all not being enough. Photo by Hilary.

Thoughts about the Team:

This is hard. Watching this team is hard. Because I feel for these guys. I believe they are putting everything they can out on the field. If we the fans feel frustrated, then I can’t even imagine how they feel. Do I think part of this is an emotional hangover from the past season and half of off-field drama? Yes, I do.

Did we have a time under Berhalter where we struggled to score goals? Yes, we absolutely did. But in those cases, we typically had a solid defense who minimized the damage the opposition did to us. This is not happening this year. And while I know we are missing Milton Valenzuela to injury, his replacement Waylon Francis is a very good left back. This can not be blamed on injuries.

Is Caleb Porter getting everything out of these guys that he can? I don’t know. I understand we have injuries and call ups, and while I don’t believe every player is elite caliber, I believe they can play a solid game of soccer. However, the adjustment between playing styles has not been as seamless as many thought, including Caleb himself.

However, this isn’t Caleb’s chosen roster. He inherited a roster in January that he had limited time to evaluate and tweak. Do I think a roster blow up is coming? Yes, I do. It’s already started. There will be many players that I will be heartbroken to lose. But to give Caleb a real chance to develop this club into what he thought it could be, it probably has to happen.

With recent additions coming in the transfer window of Eloy Room, keeper of the Curacao National team, Luis Diaz from Club Sport Herediano (Costa Rica) and Romario Williams from Atlanta United, it is hopeful that these players can make an immediate and positive impact for the struggling Crew when they take the field July 13 in a rematch against Orlando.

Featured image: Hilary

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

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Who is this Team? Crew versus SKC

Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Well, I have been absent from writing due to some work and travel obligations, and it’s hard to recognize the team now that I am back.  Between trades, injuries, and loans, this team is a dramatically different one than the one I left six weeks ago. 

The Columbus Crew have traded Justin Meram to Atlanta and loaned out Lalas Abubakar to Colorado Rapids for the year.  We have picked up David Guzman from Portland Timbers, and David Accam has joined the team from Philadelphia Union for the rest of the year.  In addition, Waylon Francis and Harrison Afful are just returning from injury, Josh Williams is hurt, and our major playmaker, Federico Higuain is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

If that doesn’t make your head spin, then keep in mind that during this game against Sporting Kansas City, we were also missing Wil Trapp and Gyasi Zardes to the USMNT, and Zack Steffen who was also with the USMNT has played his final game in a Crew jersey as he goes to Europe in July.  

With a Kansas City team who has also been struggling with injury and can only put six players on the bench, the Crew had an opportunity to win their second game in the last eleven.  Jon Kempin has been the starting keeper since Steffen’s exit, and the back four included Waylon Francis, Alex Crognale, and Gaston Sauro.  The midfield wings were Hector Jimenez and David Accam with David Guzman and Artur holding down the center of the midfield with Patrick Mullins on top.

The Crew had several opportunities to put the ball in the goal, but they just couldn’t seem to do so.  In the 19’, Patrick Mullins had difficulty finishing off a Pedro Santos corner kick that had been sent in to him by Gaston Suaro.  The Crew should have had several goals throughout the game as the SKC keeper Tim Melia blocked but did not hold to several shots the Crew made on goal.

In the 48’, SKC’s Felipe Gutierrez headed in a goal without any one between him and the goal off an assist from Gerso.  In the 74’, Afful received a red card for a tackle on Gerso that denied an obvious scoring opportunity.

The game ended in a 1-0 loss for the Crew who can’t seem to put a complete game together. 

Thoughts on the match:

This has been an incredibly frustrating period of time for Crew fans as the team cannot seem to pull together a win.  We have had injuries and call ups, but I do think the majority of the team that was out on the field on Saturday are capable of pulling out a win.  Watching the highlights after being at the match, the Crew had a lot of opportunities, but continue to be unable to find the back of the net.  

I am not sure about David Guzman.  He has replaced Artur as the starter when Wil Trapp is not on national team duty.  It doesn’t seem to work.  However, I think part of the reason the team has struggled is due to head coach Caleb Porter’s change in how he has Wil Trapp and his midfield partner (Guzman or Artur) play.  I think Wil’s and Artur’s play has also declined with the system tweaks that Porter is making and actually weakening what I consider the spine of the team

However, I am not ready to write Porter off.  While I never hide that he wasn’t my first choice for this job and I don’t consider the injuries an excuse, there are going to be growing pains with a new coach.  I’m willing to give him more time, but that doesn’t make the growing pains any less painful as a fan.  So I definitely do not fault anyone who is looking for a replacement for Porter already. 

Let’s hope the team can find some footing this upcoming Saturday against Orlando City.  The team is honoring former Crew coach and legend Sigi Schmid with a place in the team’s Circle of Honor at halftime of the game.  An additional way to honor Schmid would be for the Crew to get 3 points.

Featured image: @ColumbusCrewSC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

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Depleted Crew Hold On Against Revolution

By Hilary // @hils4crew

The Crew came up with a 1-0 win against the New England Revolution on Saturday, April 6th.  The line-up was essentially the same as the last game except for Hector Jimenez who started in Harrison Afful’s typical spot.  Harrison Afful broke his jaw in a collision with a teammate in the waterlogged game last week in Columbus and will be out a minimum of six weeks.  The Crew have lost both their starting outside backs to injury this year. At least, we will see Afful again this season, while Milton Valenzuela, the left back, remains out for the season.

New England seemed to be the better team for much of the game.  It started off with a dangerous shot by Jalil Anibaba from outside the 18 yard box that a diving Zack Steffen saved.  In the 41’, the Crew’s defense continued their scoring run of the season with a Josh Williams header from a Federico Higuain free kick.  This assist tied Higuain for the most club assists with other Crew legend Robert Warzycha. Williams, who even went to Endeavor Brewing Company to celebrate with fans when the initial Saved the Crew announcement was made, ran over to the Nordecke to celebrate his goal with the fans.

In the 49’, Jonathan Mensah almost put another header in off a Pipa corner kick to continue the defensive line scoring trend, but was denied by midfielder Scott Caldwell with a goal line clearance.

In the 64’, defender Michael Mancienne took out Higuain resulting in his second yellow card of the night.  From that moment on, New England would be playing a man down. However, with the exception of one play in the second half, a beautiful ball from Jimenez to Gyasi Zardes for a header attempt in the 81’, the Crew seemed to be the team playing a man down.

New England continued to attack and almost evened up the score in the 88’.  Buchanan passed a very short ball to Teal Bunbury who crossed the ball right in front of the goal. Jimenez chested it towards Zack Steffen, but Cristian Penilla of New England was there to try and finish the ball into the back of the net.  Steffen stepped in front of the ball sending it away. Soon after, the final whistle blew.

Thoughts on the match:

This game had a lot of fouls.  The Crew committed 16 fouls while New England committed 10.  It was a chippy game, and the ref should have gotten a handle on it earlier.

During the game, Hector Jimenez went down right before half and looked to be in pain.  He was able to return into the match and finish out the game. I only hope that he stays healthy as we don’t have an experienced player who can fill that spot.  

I’m not sure what the coaching directions were once we went a man up.  It seemed to be play keep away by passing the ball in our own half of the field.  This was not a good strategy as a few bad passes led to some good attempts by New England to punish us for our mistakes.  The Crew should have been attacking or at least playing keep away further down the field.

Once again, Zack Steffen kept us in the match with several incredible saves.   We need a quality replacement for him, or we need to figure out how to clone him before he moves to Manchester City in June.

Finally, while I feel our defense played a solid game, our offense seemed a little lost. We need to figure out a way to get the offense clicking.  We can’t depend on our defensive players scoring all our goals for the rest of the season.

We will see if the offense can get it going this upcoming Saturday when the Crew play away against the Montreal Impact.

Featured image: @ColumbusCrewSC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

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Columbus Crew defeat Atlanta United 2-0: Did We Actually Play Soccer?

Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

The answer is yes, kind of. It was part soccer match—part playing on a Slip and Slide. The Columbus Crew took on the defending MLS Cup Champs Atlanta United this past Saturday, March 30th. The game took place during a rainstorm that even the pristine pitch at Mapfre Stadium couldn’t drain fast enough.

The Crew came out and scored in the 2’ of play. When Artur received a ball from Wil Trapp, he carried down the sideline and crossed it about 9 yards from the end line.

Gyasi Zardes tried to slide into the ball along with an Atlanta defender to put it into the goal. He missed it, but made it to the backside of the goal where Pedro Santos was making an unmarked run and to put the ball into the back of the net.

In the 24’, Atlanta almost evened up the score. Julian Gressel headed a beautiful ball from Ambrose that Zack Steffen was able to stop. It bounced off Zack and Josef Martinez tried to finish the bouncing ball that was quickly cleared by Jonathan Mensah.

Then, the game went into a weather delay due to lightning in the area. After the almost hour weather delay, the game resumed with the rain still pouring down.

In the 34’, Zack Steffen proved why he deserved Man of the Match honors. Atlanta was dangerous again with a ball that squirted through from Franco Escobar to the approaching Ezequiel Barco. Zack made an incredible diving save keeping the Crew’s lead safe.

In the 39’, the Crew picked up their second goal with great runs by Robinho and Zardes. Zardes was making a break for the 6-yard box, stopped, and stepped back a few steps losing his defenders. Robinho, who had received a great ball from Federico Higuain, had run down the sideline and sent a perfect cross to Gyasi who buried it.

In the 57’, Zardes earned a PK that Federico Higuain took. Brad Guzan made a good save on the PK.

At this point, the game was really being played in a swamp. Atlanta had some chances as did the Crew, but the game held at 2-0.

Thoughts About the Game:

In this game, I joked on Twitter that the field had the best first touch of any player out there because wherever the ball landed it would just stop.

I truly believe that Mapfre Stadium has one of the best pitches in the MLS. (It is not artificial turf, and the Columbus Grounds Crew is the best! I’m sure I’m biased, but I don’t care.)

However, there is no way that any pitch could hold up against the amount of rain that poured down during the course of this game. The puddles and amount of water on the pitch just stopped the ball dead.

There wasn’t any way to dribble the ball. In fact, many players who tried ended up tripping over the ball when it dead stopped in the water.

In many ways, it was a hilarious game to watch because, at many points in the game, it looked as if the players were on a Slip and Slide. However, I was very concerned that players on either team would get hurt. Definitely a game for the books.

Also, Robinho was dangerous and has definitely set the bar high in order for Justin Meram to win back his starting spot. Robinho had several great crosses and shots during the game. I’m excited to see what he can do.

Federico Higuain is a great player. However, he cannot make consistent PKs on the south goal Mapfre Stadium. While I know he would like to get that monkey off his back, he just needs to stop taking PKs on that end of the stadium.

I will say it again, and I will say it every game until he is gone. But, we don’t win this game without Zack Steffen. I wish we had brokered a deal where we could have him back on loan. He is such a great keeper, and I feel privileged to have seen him play.

I joked with MLS Female writer @robynsaghini that we should have negotiated in Zack’s contract that we get him back for playoffs if we play against Atlanta.

This week, the Crew remain at home at a (hopefully) much drier Mapfre Stadium to take on the New England Revolution on April 6th.

Featured image: @ColumbusCrewSC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

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Columbus Crew: Let us invite you…

Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

On Saturday night, the Columbus Crew took on the Philadelphia Union.  Both teams had players missing.  The Crew rolled out their similar formation. 

Hector Jimenez was playing for left back in place of Waylon Francis.  Patrick Mullins was in at forward.  Ricardo Clark played in Wil Trapp’s spot, and Robinho played on the wing for Justin Meram.  Also, Joe Bendik was playing for the injured Zack Steffen in goal.  

While I knew these were not typical starters for the team, I wasn’t too nervous going into the match as most of these guys are experienced MLS players.  Last season, outside of Robinho and Bendik who weren’t on the team, these guys played frequently in the weeks where we had multiple games in a short time frame.  

The start of the game validated my lack of worry as the team seemed to come out on the attack. 

However, that soon changed.  It seems the Crew sent an embossed invitation to David Accam to score goals.  Multiple goals.  

In the 31’, David Accam snuck behind the defenders on a great run and banged it into the goal off the post after a give away from the Crew that the Union brought down the field.  

Then, in the 41’, Gaston Sauro tried to stop Accam.  Then, Mensah and Afful tried unsuccessfully to stop Accam who slotted in a goal near post past Bendik.  

Finally, in the 48’, David Accam took a break from scoring and decided to assist instead.  He knocked down a bouncing ball and got it to Ilsinho who hit it off the crossbar into the goal.  

Philadelphia ended the game with a win 3-0.  

Other thoughts:

I can’t really find anything positive to say about the Crew’s performance Saturday.  I am nervous about not having Zack Steffen, and this game turned the fear up many notches.  However, other than the second goal, which I think Bendik could have done more on, I feel most of the blame lays at the defense’s feet

Is this because Bendik isn’t good about communicating to his line and Zack is?  Is this due to the fact that the defense just had a really bad game?  I’m not sure, but whatever it is, the Crew have until June to figure it out.

I’m concerned about the number of giveaways and bad passes I felt the Crew had.  This needs to be better

Finally, you saw Caleb Porter sub in Luis Argudo, Eduardo Sosa, and Jerome Williams after Philadelphia’s third goal.  This could be due to wanting to keep some starters from getting hurt or seeing if a younger player would be hungrier to get a goal and make a difference on the pitch.  It was nice to see the young guys on the pitch despite them not making a splash in the score line.  

The Crew return home this Saturday to play defending MLS Cup winners Atlanta United.  Hopefully, they can try to remedy some of the wrongs from this game to play a better game at home.

Featured image: @ColumbusCrewSC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

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And It Was All Yellow

Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

That was the pregame song playing as the scoreboard showed a montage of Columbus Crew plays, and the yellow soccer team, ironically not wearing yellow, won the game 1-0 against FC Dallas this past Saturday.

Rolling out a line-up similar to the last home game with the exception of Robinho starting in place of Justin Meram, the team got the winning goal early in the game.  In the 10’, Pedro Santos took a near post corner kick aimed at the head of Gaston Sauro.  Sauro, who was being hugged by one FC Dallas defender and closely guarded by a second defender, jumped and headed the ball into the net. 

Two seasons ago, Crew fans and Gaston Sauro himself did not know if he would ever play soccer again.  Now, he’s put in goals in both of the Crew’s home games.  Currently, he’s tied with Gyasi Zardes, who had a brace last week against the New England Revolution, for goals. 

Robinho had a dangerous shot in the 21’ that rebounded off the keeper, but Zardes had trouble finishing the ball skying it over the net.  The Crew kept the pressure and shots coming throughout the first half but were unable to put any more into the back of the net.

In the second half, FC Dallas seemed to be more dangerous.  Michael Barrios had a nice shot in the 55’ that Zack Steffen was able to slow down and Sauro was able to clear.  In the last 15 minutes of the game, FC Dallas seemed to possess the ball more and shot the ball several times.  In past seasons, the Crew would have conceded a goal at these times of pressure, so it was nice to see them finish the game with a win.

Other Thoughts:

  • In Porter’s system, it appears that Artur and Wil Trapp will be doing more shifting back and forth between offense and defense instead of Wil being more defensively-minded. I feel like I’ve seen Trapp make more mistakes and not bring his A-game this season.  I don’t know if this is Wil adjusting to the new system, if Wil’s skills doesn’t fit this style as well, or if I’m just being nit-picky. I was a Gregg Berhalter fan but have yet to form an opinion about what I think of Caleb Porter yet.
  • I do feel that Pedro Santos is finally finding his form.  Maybe he needed a new coach, but now he has several assists on the season and had some great passes and shots in this match.  
  • I am nervous about when Zack Steffen leaves this team for Manchester City in June.  I just don’t see what goalkeeper can step in and do what he does for this team.  He was supposed to be out this upcoming week with the US Men’s National Team, but due to a knee injury sustained in training, he is missing this round of friendlies and this week’s upcoming Crew game too.  I guess we will see who might step up in Steffen’s absence.
  • In addition, the team will be missing Wil Trapp, Gyasi Zardes, Justin Meram, and Waylon Francis for the next Crew match due to national team call ups.

It’ll be interesting to see how Caleb Porter deals with a slightly depleted roster for the call ups as they travel to take on the Philadelphia Union this weekend. 

Featured image: @ColumbusCrewSC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

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A New Beginning: Columbus Crew

Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Columbus Crew vs New York Red Bulls

On Saturday, the Columbus Crew tied the New York Red Bulls in their home opener.  While the final score line was a 1-1 tie, to many in the crowd, it felt like a victory.  Because at this time last year, there was doubt as to if the Crew would have another home opener in Columbus.  

The former Crew owner, Anthony Precourt, had been trying to move the team to Austin.  But due to a strong Save the Crew grassroots movement, government officials, other city and state leaders, and a new ownership group, the Crew will remain in Columbus, and in two years, the team will be playing in a brand-new downtown stadium.  

As the team warmed up and Jonathan Mensah waved at my section, I teared up.  As the new ownership group, the Haslam and Edwards families, were introduced, I teared up.  When I heard them announce the Crew’s starting line-up, I teared up.  As the team took the field, I teared up.  When I looked around the stadium filled with around 17,900 excited fans, I teared up.  When the game ended, I teared up, but not because it was a tie.  But because my team was still here.  For this reason, it was an emotional game, and for this one moment, the results on the field didn’t really matter.

However, now that I can just worry about how my team is playing soccer and not if they are going to be torn away from Columbus, I can happily talk about the results of this game.  

Columbus’s head coach, Gregg Berhalter, left at the end of last season to coach the United States Men’s National Team.  The new ownership hired former Portland Timbers’ head coach Caleb Porter to lead the Crew in this new era.  Porter has a very solid set of players to build upon as the majority of the players from last year have remained with the Crew. 

There are currently only two changes in the Crew’s starting roster.  Stellar left back Milton Valenzuela is out with a knee injury for the season.  He will be replaced by Waylon Francis who returned to the Crew after a year with Seattle.  Also, Gaston Sauro looks to have locked down the starting center back job next to Jonathan Mensah. 

With a familiar starting line-up, the Crew were the first to concede a goal to a slightly different Red Bulls starting line-up as they are also currently playing in the CONCACAF Champions League. In the 6’, Andreas Ivan finished a ball that went over Harrison Afful’s head putting the Red Bulls up by 1. 

Then, near the end of the first half, the Crew equalized with a Gaston Sauro header set up by a Federico Higuain corner kick.  New York looked to grab the lead in the 76’, but it was flagged offsides resulting in a draw at the final whistle.  

Thoughts about the Game:

I didn’t focus much on the difference between Porter’s style of play versus Berhalter’s.  I did notice that both outside backs did not seem to push up into the offensive third as frequently as they seemed to last season.  Wil Trapp didn’t seem to drop back between the center backs as much as he has in seasons past.  The guys didn’t always seem to know where their teammates would be on the field, which is something I felt was apparent in Gregg’s system. 

However, it is early, and I’m sure some of this is preseason rust and some of this is adjusting to new coach’s strategy. 

I did feel that the Crew had a lot of dangerous moments.  Several players had shots that were close to going in. I am really going to keep an eye on Pedro Santos this season.  While not a Crew favorite, outside of the last play of the game, I felt he played a solid game.  Maybe under a new coach, he can find the confidence that seems to be alluding him.  

Now that everything is the way it should be, I look forward to games where the results matter to me because my team is where it is supposed to be.  Looking forward to 3 points when the Crew take on New England this upcoming Saturday. 

Featured image: Hilary

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

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The Crew: Pushing through the Playoffs

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Knockout Game

Thursday, November 1: 2(2) – 2(3) Win

Columbus Crew SC started their playoffs on a Thursday just four days after their final game of the regular season.  Due to a lackluster end to the season, Crew SC played the team currently ending their season on a hot streak and one of the Crew’s original rivals, DC United, in a knockout game away from home. 

If I had to pick a word to describe this game it was reminiscent.  It was reminiscent of the Crew’s knockout game in Atlanta last year.  It was a physical game.  It was a tough game, and it went to penalty kicks.

After 90’, the game was tied 1-1 on a DC goal from Brillant in the 21’ and a goal from Federico Higuain in the 30’.  In extra time, Higuain, typically a master with the ball at his feet, headed home a goal in the 96’.  Then, DC’s Nick DeLeon scored the tying goal off a poor clearance from the Crew in the 116’.  The game’s extra time ended in a 2-2 tie and proceeded to penalty kicks. 

Zack Steffen repeated his masterful performance during PKs last year in Atlanta, by blocking both Wayne Rooney’s and Luciano Acosta’s shots.  Gyasi Zardes’s shot was blocked by the DC keeper, and Patrick Mullins knocked his off the post.  The PKs ended, not by a Crew player shushing the crowd as Adam Jahn did last year in Atlanta, but as DeLeon, the hero of the extra time shot his PK over the net. 

Thoughts on this Game:

Pipa, who is fantastic much of the time anyway, has turned it up a notch in the playoffs scoring 3 goals (one a PK) in this match.  He definitely is showing his hunger for an MLS Cup. 

DC was a tough opponent, but we gifted them the two goals.  The first when Steffen allowed a cross to go through his fingertips and drop to Brillant and a poor clearance by Crew led to DC’s second goal.  We need to minimize these errors to keep moving forward in the playoffs.

My heart can’t handle these overtime, go to PKs, knockout away games against strong teams.  However, the Crew continues to win them. However, during this game what shocked me the most was when Gregg Berhalter was stopping a ball that had gone out of bounds and Acosta shoved and then tripped him.  Now, I’ve seen Berhalter do this in many games, but I’ve never seen a player respond in that way.  I don’t know if it resulted in any discipline for Acosta, but it should have.

Conference Semifinals—Leg 1

Sunday, November 4: 1-0 Win

Gregg Berhalter showed why he is being considered for the USMNT coaching position after the Crew’s 1-0 result against the Supporter’s Shield winners the New York Red Bulls.  

Again, the Crew were playing on shorter rest than their opponents—playing only 3 days after their lengthy game against DC.  Berhalter shifted his line-up from the DC game into a free-flowing 4-4-2.  Pipa started the game on the bench.  Patrick Mullins and Gyasi Zardes started up top, and rookie Luis Argudo started out right. 

While there were a few chances for both teams, the more memorable one in the first half was by the New York Red Bulls in the 27’.  The ball was headed off a corner, bounced off the post toward the goal line, went off the head of a diving Zack Steffen, and then traveled out of the goal area.  Despite the close chance for New York, the first half ended, 0-0.

In the second half, Pipa came off the bench, and the tempo of the game for Crew SC changed.  In the 59’, New York’s Daniel Royer had a breakaway that ended as Steffen ran 35 feet up the field to tackle Royer.   Then the Crew scored their goal in the 61’, and it was a thing of beauty.  Milton Valenzuela sent a ball across to Higuain who flicked the ball across to Zardes who finished off the shot.

Both keepers made important saves in the waning minutes of the game.  Luis Robles saved a hard shot from distance from Pedro Santos in the 89’, and Steffen made a fingertip save of a Bradley Wright-Phillips header in the 93’.  This final save sealed the 1-0 win for the Crew.

Thoughts on this Game:

In the playoff games played thus far, the Crew have shown why they should not be underestimated.  While they did not go into the playoffs on a winning streak as in years past, they have apparently found their playoff mojo.  They did a nice job minimizing the Red Bulls scoring threats.  If our defense can keep up the defense they showed in this game, the Crew can go deep into the playoffs. 

Today, it was announced that Zack Steffen was MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.  While some other fans don’t seem happy with the result, I think he has definitely earned the accolades this year.  I’m not saying the other keepers didn’t deserve it—being a professional goalkeeper takes skills—I am proudly a fan of Steffen. 

Finally, it is clear that Gregg Berhalter’s meticulous strategizing brings positive results.  Let’s see those results continue this Sunday when the Crew take on the Red Bulls in the second leg of the Conference Semi-Finals.   

Featured image: @ColumbusCrewSC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

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Columbus Crew SC Playoff Bound

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Sunday, October 28: 3-2 Win

The game was about as shaky and unpredictable as the Ohio weather.  Columbus Crew SC took on the Minnesota United FC in the final game of the season in Columbus. 

Before the game, the sun shone down and prepared the teams and fans for a game that determined the Crew’s playoff possibilities. However, nine minutes in, Ohio weather being Ohio weather, decided to change tactics.  Lightning and rain caused a delay–foiling the MLS’ plan that all games end at the same time leaving every teams’ playoff fate unknown until the final minute of all those synchronized games.  Well, as MLS has learned this year, Columbus rarely does it the way they want us to.

After about an hour delay, the game resumed in the blustering wind, rain, and a significant temperature drop.  Crew SC jumped back into the match quickly with a short corner from Federico Higuain to Milton Valenzuela.  Valenzuela sent in a cross, which Gyasi Zardes headed into the goal in the 11’ of the game

In the 41’, a scary scene emerged, as Columbus Crew’s Gaston Sauro in an effort to stop a streaking Angelo Rodriguez, collided with keeper Zack Steffen leaving both Rodriguez and Steffen on the ground for several minutes with Rodriguez being subbed out.  Steffen returned to the match with a collective sigh of relief leaving all Crew fans.

The first half ended with Crew SC up 1-0 and a playoff spot clinched as the Montreal Impact lost to the New England Revolution.   Despite the guaranteed playoff spot, it was important for Crew SC to get the win as they have struggled to get results as of late and need to get into form if they want to go deep into the playoffs and make a run for the MLS Cup.

Gyasi Zardes scored quickly again in the second half slotting a ball in the 49’ after following up a free kick from Higuain that bounced off of Minnesota goalkeeper Matt Lampson, but Minnesota had no desire to make this easy for the Crew.  Francisco Calvo, a Minnesota defender scored in the 68’ unmarked off a free kick, and again in the 77’, as a ball skipped between Harrison Afful’s legs right to Calvo.  Minnesota had evened up the score. 

However, Zardes decided that it was time to score his first career hat trick and scored the final goal of the night in the 83’ off a beautiful ball from Niko Hansen putting the Crew SC in fifth place.

Other thoughts:

I haven’t written a lot of articles this season about Crew SC.  First, I can’t watch away games at home due to some bizarre blackout rule that I have yet to figure out.  Second, my personal life outside of soccer has been a bit more crazy than normal.  And third, this was an emotionally hard season.  Due to the possibility of the Crew’s move to Austin, every game felt more emotionally draining than normal.  It was difficult to want to relive that in recaps and articles. 

However, it looks likely, due to a local ownership group that includes the Edwards and Haslam families, that Crew SC may remain in Columbus with Austin getting its own team.  Now until the final i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed, I will not feel completely calm, but it helped me enjoy this game a lot more. 

Zardes scored his first professional hat trick in this game and ended the regular season with 19 goals.  I have a lot of respect for Sigi Schmid, but I’m not sure what he was thinking trying to play Gyasi at leftback last season when Zardes was with the Galaxy.  Gregg Berhalter has a proven system that helps make his forwards successful goal scorers. 

As this was the last regular season home game, it always makes me pause and wonder who we are possibly watching for the last time as a Crew SC player.  Will Steffen and Wil Trapp head to Europe?  Will Berhalter be named the new USMNT head coach?  The answers to these questions, for now, remain unknown but I am very thankful that these men have played a part in Columbus Crew SC history.

Typically, Crew SC is on a hot streak going into the playoffs.   This season, we have not seen this streak.  In fact, it’s been pretty much the opposite.  If Crew SC can’t find their top-level form and make the mistakes they made against Minnesota, their playoff run will be short-lived.

Let’s hope Crew SC bring their A-game against a very tough DC United team this Thursday in the playoff knockout game

Featured image: @ColumbusCrewSC

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Columbus Crew SC v New York City FC

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Saturday, Sept 1: 2-1 Win

On Saturday in front of a home crowd of about 12,000 fans, Columbus Crew SC found their groove again that will hopefully continue on through the post-season and all the way to the MLS Cup, winning 2-1 against NYCFC. 

While Crew SC felt like the more dominant team for most of the first half with opportunities for goals for Justin Meram and Gyasi Zardes, the half ended in a 0-0 tie. 

Then in the 53’, NYCFC pulled ahead when Anton Tinnerholm hit the ball against Crew SC’s Lalas Abubakar.  The ball then bounced back off Tinnerholm to the feet of Ismael Tajouri-Shradi who put it in the net.

It wasn’t long before Crew SC struck back and did so in a short time span.  In the 61’, Frederico Higuain sent a ball to Harrison Afful who was outside the 18.  He shot the ball.  It bounced off an NYCFC player right back to Afful who took another rip at the ball.  Abubakar ducked out Afful’s rocket shot and the ball sailed into the bottom corner of the net past Sean Johnson.  The goal was very reminiscent of Wil Trapp’s goal a few weeks ago.

Then in the 63’, Justin Meram headed the ball in off a corner kick from Pedro Santos and celebrated his first goal since returning home to Columbus Crew SC by kissing the Columbus Crew SC badge on his jersey

At the game‘s end, Crew SC was still in 4th place in the Eastern Conference, but 3 points closer to NYCFC who sits in 3rd place. 

Other Thoughts:

I am excited for the return of Justin Meram, and this game illustrated why it is so good to have him back.  At the end of last season, Justin Meram requested to be traded from Columbus—partly due to the looming threat of a move to Austin and partly because he wanted to stretch himself professionally somewhere other than Columbus where he has been his whole career.  However, things didn’t go as well as Justin had hoped in Orlando, and there was an opportunity for him to return to Columbus. 

Watching Meram play his first full 90 minutes since coming back to Columbus, I’m reminded of what a dangerous threat he developed into as a player here—combining with other players, strong defending, taking players on as he attacked toward the goal, and taking dangerous shots.  We needed someone to lock down the left-wing position, and Meram has settled right back into where he belongs.  As he kissed the crest on his badge after his goal, I’m not going to lie, I got teary.

Pedro Santos has struggled this season, and many have found him a disappointment.  However, in the last few games and with Meram’s return, Santos seems to have found his footing.  He was involved in many dangerous passes that led to other player’s shots and had a few shots of his own.  For a player who I think may be more of an assist man than a shot guy, having Meram back, may have eased the burden and allows Santos to be the player that he is comfortable being.  Time will tell, but this fan is optimistic for what Santos can bring to the team. 

Wil Trapp, Gyasi Zardes, and Zack Steffen have all been called up for USMNT friendlies on September 7th and 11th.  These are three players who are very deserving of call ups.  Zardes has proved that with the right team around him he is a dangerous scoring threat, scoring 15 goals thus far this season (and almost netting two more during this game).  Steffen, I believe, is the USMNT keeper of the future.  Wil Trapp is the cog of Crew SC’s midfield and can do this for the USMNT as well.

Finally, September 4th is a big day for the #SavetheCrew movement as the motion to dismiss that has been filed by PSV/MLS will be heard by a judge although it will not be likely ruled on for some time.  I encourage all fans to familiarize themselves with what Crew SC fans are going through as it could be happening to other teams in the not too distant future.  Visit savethecrew.com and learn more about the movement.

Crew SC will take on FC Dallas on Saturday, September 15th.  I’ll look forward to Crew SC’s continued momentum towards the playoffs.

Featured image: @ColumbusCrewSC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

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