Columbus maintains choke hold on Eastern ConferenceBy jzidar • Jul 18th, 2010 • Category: Lead Story
Saturday night was the second time in 2010 that the Columbus Crew and the New York Red Bulls have met to battle for throne of the Eastern Conference. The first match was at Red Bull Arena back on May 20th and it ended with Columbus downing New York 3-1. Eddie Gaven and Andy Iro scored just minutes apart to give the Crew a 2-0 lead at the end of the first half. In the second half New York gained a bit of momentum and Tony Tchani managed to pull one back for the Red Bulls, but the comeback wasn’t meant to be. Just moments later Emilio Renteria capitalized on a defensive mistake and found himself streaking towards goal all alone. Renteria easily maneuvered around the New York keeper, slid the ball into the net and pounded the last nail in New York’s coffin.
All eyes were on the Red Bulls when they came to Columbus on Saturday because of their recent signing of French legend, Thierry Henry, who wouldn’t be participating in the match. First place was on the line yet again and yet again Renteria took it upon himself to dash New York’s hopes of snatching first place.
Bench: Gruenebaum; Brunner, Padula, Francis(Carroll 57′); Oughton, Rogers(Schelotto 85′); Garey(Renteria 80′)
Bench: Sutton; Petke; Robinson(Stammler 79′), Hall, Tchani(Ubiparipovic 45′); Kandji(Borman 45′), Chinn
Warzycha only made three changes to the lineup that lost to Kansas on Wednesday and tied Houston a week ago. Emmanuel Ekpo started on the left wing in place of Robbie Rogers. Emilio Renteria paired with Guillermo Barros Schelotto up top to give Jason Garey a rest. Finally, Danny O’Rourke took up position at left back while Gino Padula was available off the bench. Renteria and Ekpo have been offensive sparks off the bench for weeks now so their inclusion in the starting 11 was long overdue.
Columbus dominated the match right from the start, as was the case in their 1-0 loss to Kansas on Wednesday. Unlike Wednesday, the sloppy, ineffective Crew were nowhere to be seen. In there place was a mean lean possession machine. It wouldn’t have been surprising to see Columbus come out and play lazy, uninspired soccer considering they’ve had a game every 3 or 4 days since returning from the World Cup break. Instead they played a beautiful passing game that left New York a step behind the whole time. “We played one of our best games” said Warzycha at the conclusion of the match. Pass the ball and don’t let them play, “That was our game plan.” Warzycha devised the plan and the team executed it perfectly. Short quick passes along the ground combined with the patience to switch the field and probe for an opening led to passing sequences of lengths previously unseen by the black and gold. Columbus only had to wait 20 minutes to see the fruits of their labor. The Crew defense had been pressuring hard on the rare occasions that the offense did lose possession and that pressure is where the sequence leading up to the goal began.
Juan Pablo Angel had the ball just outside the center circle when Brian Carroll was able to tap it away. Adam Moffat received it and in one touch passed it to Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Not a single New York player stepped up to pressure the Argentine defender so Schelotto took and moment to find an opening and then split two defenders with a long leading pass. Renteria had been bobbing back and forth with the New York back line trying to stay onside and when the pass was made and he took off after it the assistant ref kept his flag down. Renteria got just inside the 18 yard box before unleashing a shot. Bouna Coundoul managed to get a hand on the ball but it wasn’t enough to stop the ball from hitting the back of the net.
The rest of the first half was much of the same as Columbus put on a clinic while New York desperately tried to stay in the game. Renteria and Ekpo linked up in the 28th minute and it looked like there was a blowout in the works as Renteria buried the ball yet again. However, Henry breathed a sigh of relief from the comfort of his luxury box as the referee signaled for offside. The teams went into the locker rooms only separated by one goal which failed to tell the story of Columbus’ dominance.
The Red Bulls made two changes at half time in an attempt to remedy their possession woes. Tony Tchani and Macounmba Kandji started the second half in place of Sinisa Ubiparipovic and Danleigh Borman, respectively. The changes didn’t seem to help as the Crew struck again just three minutes into the second half. It was the 48th minute and Schelotto found himself in a familiar position. He stood just behind the ball surveying the opponents box as his teammates jockeyed for prime position. He took the kick, most likely looking to find the head of Chad Marshall or Andy Iro and he did, but not immediately. The ball first struck the head of a New York defender who flicked it over the crowd of bodies filling the penalty area and toward the back post. It then met the head of Marshall who recognized that it didn’t have enough pace to successfully redirect on goal and instead sent it flying back into the melee. The rookie defender Tim Ream leapt into the air and headed the ball out to the top of the box where it bounced a couple times before Brian Carroll met it mid bounce and pounded it back at goal. It was the kind of shot that was destined for the back of the net from the moment it left his foot. The was rising the whole way as it screamed through the box and past the outstretch Coundoul. It was a world class goal from the most unlikely of players and it brought Crew Stadium to its feet.
Columbus almost scored again in the 75th minute as Gaven and Schelotto went back and forth down the right side. Gaven then served the ball in towards a sprinting Ekpo who knocked the ball towards goal before colliding with Coundoul. The shot slid just wide of the post but it was close enough to give the New York bench a good scare.
With only a minute remaining in the match Crew captain, Frankie Hejduk, was ejected after a little kicking match with Carl Robinson. It was the only sour note on what was ultimately a great evening for Columbus. Hejduk will miss the next match against Houston on July24th, a game which he may have been left out of anyway to give the aging right back some much needed rest before heading into an incredibly congested August.
Referee: Abbey Okulaja, Referee Assistants: Joe Fletcher; Jeff Muschik, 4th Official: Silviu Petrescu
Weather at kickoff: High 80s and partly cloudy
Columbus’ next match is against the Houston Dynamo in Columbus on July 24th. The two teams last met just one week ago at Robertson Stadium in Houston and the game ended in a nil-nil draw.