Crew trying to re-establish fortress mentality for 2012

Columbus Crew fans cheer on Emilio Renteria

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – As the attack unfolded in front of him, Columbus Crew defensive midfielder Danny O’Rourke could see the play develop as his team pressed for the winning goal in the 88th minute of their match against the Houston Dynamo last weekend.

The supporters section in the northeast corner of Crew Stadium was up en masse, exhorting the home team as they took four unsuccessful cracks at the net.

“Being back there, I’m able to see the whole Nordecke,” O’Rourke said. “I was sitting back for a corner kick or a cross and I saw us deep. We had three or four chances right on the line. I could hear the crowd getting into it.”

In the end, heroic defending from Houston kept the ball out of the net, and the Crew (2-3-1) had to settle for a 2-2 draw. But O’Rourke and captain Chad Marshall cited those in attendance for boosting the home side’s effort.

“They’re always a huge help,” Marshall said. “You can see that in the last game. When we tied the game [1-1] they were pumped up, super into it and then we got the second goal.”

Unfortunately, the Crew haven’t always returned the favor. They have a win, a tie and a 4-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls in their three home games this season, and are 2-3-2 in their past seven matches in Columbus dating back to last season.

It’s a far cry from the 2008 and '09 seasons, when they set a then-MLS record by going unbeaten in 24 regular-season and playoff home games.

“We have to establish something we had for many, many years, since the beginning of this season didn’t go the way we anticipated,” coach Robert Warzycha said.

There are only five holdovers from the team that won back-to-back Supporters’ Shields and the MLS Cup 2008 title, so a little refresher course might be in order for the newer players.

“It’s definitely something [Warzycha] has been trying to instill on this team, make our place a very tough place to play,” midfielder Eddie Gaven said. “We’ve done alright this year but it’s definitely not as good as the past few years.”

O’Rourke, like Gaven a member of the team when they were unbeatable at home, said the best way to get the message across is through actions, not words, when the Crew host the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday (7:30 pm, watch LIVE online).

“I don’t think it needs to be told,” he said. “It needs to be exemplified out there. … We need to come out with some strong tackles, keep the ball in their half and really force our play on them and really show it; then the young guys will see it from there.”

The match takes added importance because three of the Crew’s next four games – and six of their next nine – are away matches where the team is 1-2-0 and has been shut out twice.

“In this league, it’s tough to win on the road,” Marshall said. “You want to win the game, but if you get a tie on the road, it’s not the worst result. But at home, you want to get the three points.”