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COLUMBUS CREW STADIUM
Saturday, 7:30 pm ET (HDNet; FSN-SW)
Both the Columbus Crew and Dallas Burn came into the 2004 season desperate to turn things around after they were the two clubs left out of last year's MLS Cup Playoffs. But in the early going, it's only the Burn that have shaken off last year, unbeaten in their first three matches and carrying a scoreless streak of nearly four hours. The Crew meanwhile have yet to take a point in their three matches - the only MLS team without a point thus far - and have now gone four hours themselves without hitting the back of the net.
REFEREE: Ramon Hernandez. SAR (bench): Jose Andrade; JAR (opposite): Steven Taylor; 4th: Alex Prus
MLS Career: first game
Games involving Crew: first game
Games involving Burn: first game
INJURY REPORT: COLUMBUS CREW - QUESTIONABLE: GK Matt Jordan (L sprained ankle); MD Manny Lagos (R knee arthroscopic surgery) ... DALLAS BURN - OUT: MD Gavin Glinton (L ankle sprain); DOUBTFUL: Cory Gibbs (groin strain); DF David Wagenfuhr (R hamstring strain) QUESTIONABLE: FW Jason Kreis (L knee surgery)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
YELLOW PERIL: none
The teams meet on the first of three occasions this season, the first of two at Crew Stadium. They'll meet again in Columbus on July 28, two weeks after the only meeting of the season at the Cotton Bowl (July 14).
The Crew didn't lose in the three meetings between the teams last year, the only two clubs not to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs. They played to a scoreless draw on July 5 in Columbus, then the Crew won 2-1 in Southlake on Aug. 23 (Rhine 75 - Buddle 43, Paule 62). Columbus then won 3-2 at home on Sept. 13 (Buddle 28, 81; McBride 39 - Dunseth 15, Johnson 52).
The Burn have won just once in the last eight meetings between the two teams. Dallas won in the final of the two meetings in 2002, which followed a string of two Crew victories and two draws.
The road team has won just twice in the last 15 encounters in the series since the 1998 season. Before last year, the only other time in those five seasons also came in a Columbus win at Dallas in 2001.
Manny Lagos leads current Crew players with 5 goals, 2 assists v Dallas, but none of those came with Columbus. Jeff Cunningham is next in points with 2 goals, 6 assists - fourth on the all-time club leaders list - while Edson Buddle has 4 goals, 0 assists.
Jason Kreis is the Burn's all-time leader against Columbus with 6 goals, 9 assists. Among current Dallas players only Eric Quill (3 goals, 1 assist) and Oscar Pareja (2 goals, 2 assists) have more than one goal.
Coaches record: Greg Andrulis v DAL: P8 W4 L1 T3 ... Colin Clarke vs. CLB: first meeting
ALL-TIME (20 meetings): Crew 8 wins (1 shootout), 31 goals ... Burn 11 wins (1 shootout), 36 goals ... 4 draws
Carlos Ruiz scored for the fourth consecutive week, running his league-leading total to five goals with both goals against Columbus. Ruiz put his side ahead in the 58th minute from the penalty spot after Eric Denton scythed down Joseph Ngwenya in the area, Ruiz coolly sending Crew 'keeper the wrong way for the first goal.
He then finished off the match with aplomb eight minutes from time, neatly meeting a cross from Paul Broome from the left corner and sending it home with a first-time volley.
Crew coach Greg Andrulis made just one change to the team that lost 1-0 away to the Kansas City Wizards the weekend before, forced when Frankie Hejduk was sent off in that match. Kyle Martino returned to the starting lineup, as Brian Maisonneuve moved to the left side of midfield.
"When things don't go your way, they really don't go your way. The effort is there," said Andrulis. Added Cunningham: "Last year we started 2-0-1 and didn't make the playoffs. We need to stay positive."
Here's the team Andrulis ran out (4-1-3-2): Jon Busch - Steven Herdsman, Robin Fraser, Chad Marshall, Eric Denton (Erick Scott 81) - Simon Elliott - Duncan Oughton (David Testo 88), Kyle Martino, Brian Maisonneuve (Ross Paule 81) - Jeff Cunningham, Edson Buddle.
"I don't want the players to press. There's nothing to get down about," Andrulis said. "Obviously, we're disappointed with our record. The effort's been outstanding. The determination is good. We need a win to get things turned around so were not pressing for everything."
The Crew have now gone 240 minutes without a goal, after making a number of changes in the offseason following a season that started with high expectations and ended outside of the MLS Cup playoffs.
"We are all very disappointed in the way the season has started," said Crew president and GM Jim Smith. "It's a new lineup. It takes a bit of time for all the guys to get comfortable. (Saturday) was a good indication we're moving in the right direction."
The Columbus Crew remained the only team without a point on the season after their third successive loss, falling 2-0 to the Los Angeles Galaxy at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The Crew stayed in the basement of the Eastern Conference, but trail the New England Revolution by only a point.
A year after finishing with the league's worst record, the Burn began a season unbeaten over three games for just the second time in club history, first since 1998.
Toni Nhleko's 17th-minute goal gave the Burn a victory, another lightning-quick counter from the home side.
A long, searching ball downfield found Nhleko, who slipped past a falling Kansas City defender and raced into the area. As he crossed in front of goal he rolled a shot back across which slipped in behind two defenders and Wizards 'keeper Tony Meola, the first goal allowed by Kansas City this season.
Burn coach Colin Clarke ran out the same team for the third consecutive week this season (4-4-2): Scott Garlick - Philip Salyer, Cory Gibbs (Chris Gbandi 79), Steve Jolley, Matt Behncke - Ronnie O'Brien, Brad Davis, Simo Valakari, Eric Quill (Carey Talley 83) - Edward Johnson, Toni Nhleko (Bobby Rhine 73).
A year ago, the Burn played the same team in back-to-back games just once, and never in three consecutive games.
That could well change this week as Gibbs was forced from the field 11 minutes from time with a groin strain which also forced him out of the U.S. team for the friendly against Mexico on Wednesday at the Cotton Bowl.
Still, Clarke was pleased with his team's defending, as they posted a clean sheet for a second consecutive match and haven't allowed a goal in 234 minutes. It was the first time since July 2002 the club has posted back-to-back shutouts.
"It's still a team that's only played together three games," said Clarke. "So we're still learning each other and we've got some little kinks to iron out so we've got things to work on and we can still get better."
The 2004 edition of the Burn has already gained a reputation of a team that will be difficult to play against.
"We're getting there, everything is coming together and we're gelling together really well," Ronnie O'Brien said. "We're getting to know each other and what we're going to do with the ball. And now on the field you can see it, the whole team is working well together and we're working for each other which is an important thing. So if we keep playing some good games we'll be a hard team to beat."
The Burn had a welcome boost during the week when Jason Kreis scored two goals in a 4-0 scrimmage victory against SW Missouri State. Kreis came on in the second half and played 25 minutes. Jason Thompson and Bobby Rhine also scored for the Burn.
The Dallas Burn maintained pace with the leadership in the Western Conference, winning for the second consecutive week and staying unbeaten on the young season with a 1-0 victory against the Kansas City Wizards at the Cotton Bowl. The Burn are in second place in the Western Conference, one point behind the Los Angeles Galaxy, with seven points from their three matches.