Crew take point any way possible
'Ugly' was the buzz word surrounding a scoreless draw Wednesday night at The Home Depot Center, but the word carried different connotations for the Columbus Crew and Los Angeles Galaxy.
The draw was pretty for the Crew, which recorded its first result in four away matches, second consecutive clean sheet, and forced the Galaxy to drop points for the first time at home. The Galaxy, devoid of offensive flair and creativity with Landon Donovan on United States national team duty, left to a booing stadium upon the final whistle.
"An ugly, scrappy game out there," Crew striker Edson Buddle said. "Glad to get a point." Added former Galaxy and current Crew midfielder Simon Elliott: "Kind of an awkward game. We'll take the point."
But less attractive was the potential loss of Crew goalkeeper Jon Busch, whose form has earned him recent call-ups into U.S. camp, He suffered a strained right knee that had left him writhing in pain on the pitch as the first half spilled over into stoppage time.
Robin Fraser ran into Buddle before a cross was put into the box and fell on the back of Busch's leg. Play was stopped for a few minutes but Busch got to his feet and finished out the half. Busch will be examined once the team returns to Columbus.
"We need him," Crew coach Greg Andrulis said with a nervous laugh. "We've already got our backup, Matt Jordan, out for another 2-4 weeks with a pinch nerve. We're down our two senior 'keepers and going with a developmental guy (Bill Gaudette). We're confident in him. We'll have to call the league and, hopefully, get some help."
Gaudette made his MLS debut in goal for Busch and recorded his first of two saves in the 52nd minute in going to ground at the near post to corral Jovan Kirovski's rolling, left-foot effort from just inside the top of the area.
Busch's loss somewhat offset the acquisition of attacking winger Chris Henderson earlier in the day from Colorado, for a partial allocation that was sent to D.C. United as part of a three-team trade. Henderson was inserted into the starting lineup, on the left flank.
"We've been an admirer of Chris from afar," Andrulis said. "You see what he brings; a little bit of energy. He's a veteran. He's been through the wars. He's a quality player, he brings leadership and he'll say the things that need to be said in the locker room."
Henderson almost made an instant impact three minutes but his first touch pass for Kyle Martino missed and rolled to Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman. The Crew's only shot in the second half fell to Henderson in the 84th minute, forcing Hartman to go to ground to make the save.
Still, Henderson could do with a dull draw considering 17 days ago with the Rapids he was on the losing end of a 3-2 defeat at Home Depot Center as the referee awarded three penalty kicks (two to the Galaxy) in the last five minutes.
"No penalties tonight,'' said Henderson, who met the team at the hotel Tuesday and has not trained with them yet. "I like it here. I think this is a talented team. There's been a lot of stress this week. For me to get on the field, it's the best stress reliever. I just want to go play my game. I want to get the ball wide, get up and down on the wing, get service to the forwards."
The Crew had five first-half shots, mostly speculative, and lacked movement in the opposition's half. Of course, being on the road against a dangerous, potent Galaxy lineup skewed the tactics toward defending and counterattacking.
"It's tough, but we had to do what we had to do," Buddle said. "I don't think there's concern (in the attack). Final passing ... the final ball will definitely solve the problem."
On the flip side, Columbus posted its second consecutive clean sheet and may be returning to the form of last year's defensive stalwart in MLS.
Lucky for the Crew, it wrapped up its season series with the Galaxy by not having to face Donovan, who was ill Opening Day in Columbus.
"Clearly, Landon makes any team a little bit better," Andrulis said. "We've been fortunate, but also a little bit disappointed (not to play against him). Landon adds an entirely different dimension to any team. This is such a big field, you just have to stay compact. I thought our team defending was terrific.
"Clearly, we weren't getting it done (on defense), but our shape is much better. We're having players come back from injury with (Stephen) Herdsman and Robin, and you have to account for that."
Damian Secore is a controbutor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.