Crew View: USOC loss hurts young players' development

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Columbus Crew emerged healthier but by no means happier from a tough four-game stretch, capped off by a disappointing elimination in the US Open Cup on Tuesday night.

A largely inexperienced side gave up two goals in the final 11 minutes of regulation to USL Pro outfit Dayton Dutch Lions, meaning they were knocked out of the tournament at the first time of asking.

Gone, too, was the opportunity for the young and inexperienced players such as rookie goalkeeper Matt Lampson – who has yet to appear in an MLS match – to gain invaluable minutes outside of the remaining six MLS Reserve League matches.

“It’s devastating for me as player to develop,” Lampson said. “That being said, I don’t think I played poorly. I got beat by two excellent goals.”

Coach Robert Warzycha has historically used the Open Cup as a testing ground to see how players react to pressure that can’t be found in training or the reserve games. If they do well he usually rewards them by maintaining the same players in the lineup for later rounds at the expense of more established ones, even as the team moves deeper into the competition.

For example, two years ago, backup goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum played the entire Cup run including the final, even though starter William Hesmer was available. Lampson was hoping for a similar chance.

“I wish I could get extra minutes in the Open Cup, but unfortunately that’s not the case now,” he said.

There was disappointment in the quiet postgame locker room because Warzycha put the onus on the mainly young group to get the victory.

“Like Bobby said, he put the eggs in our basket,” defender Eric Gehrig said. “He trusted us to get the job done and at the end of the day we didn’t. It’s going to hurt for a while.”

Columbus played for the fourth time in 10 days and were coming off a tie at San Jose and wins at Seattle and against Chicago and looked to sustain the momentum from that run.

“We’ve been saying all week we need to complete this four-game stretch with a tough Open Cup game,” midfielder Ethan Findlay said. “[Warzycha] thought he put a team on the field that could win it. We could have won that game easily. That’s the disappointing part.”

Dayton didn’t even attempt a shot until the 79th minute when Jan Gerrit Bartels scored to counter an Olman Vargas penalty kick in the 64th. The Dutch Lions’ second shot proved to be the winner, scored by Gibson Bardsley in the 81st minute.

The Crew – 5-4-3 and unbeaten in five league matches – don’t have an MLS game until June 16 although the reserves host New England on June 10.

“We’ve gone through a tough stretch and done pretty well,” Gehrig said. “This is a letdown. This is going to sting but it’s not going to affect us going into the game on the 16th.”