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Eastern Conference Championship

Winning formula missing for Crew

Freddy Adu decided to hold his MLS coming-out party, and the visiting Columbus Crew were the guests of honor. Adu factored into all three D.C. United scoring chances, notching an assist on the first two and putting the third away himself as the Crew ended up on the wrong side of a 3-1 result.

Danny Szetela, a close friend of Adu's who spent over two years as his roommate while training in Bradenton, Fla., says he is merely the competition whenever the Crew clash with United.

"Off the field, Freddy is like a brother to me," said Szetela. "But on the field, he's just another player."

Adu was more than "just another player" in this contest, however. He set up teammate Jaime Moreno in the fifth minute to start the scoring, and added another assist only four minutes later. Just like that, the Crew found themselves in a two-goal hole barely 10 minutes into the match.

"We didn't come out focused and ready to play," said Crew netminder Jon Busch. "We lost the game in the first ten minutes tonight ... We know what Freddy is about. We lost our focus defensively and it was too easy for him to get behind us."

Crew head coach Greg Andrulis knew his team had a big hill to climb after the lackluster start. "It's tough to give up two goals that quickly in any game," said Andrulis.

Busch said he was particularly disappointed with the second goal, scored by Josh Gros. "We have to be better in our box defensively," he said. "To give a guy a free header from eight yards out is unacceptable.

Andrulis agreed on the need to stay more organized in the back, but was optimistic about the poise and grit his team showed in the second half.

"There were a lot of positives to take from the game," said Andrulis. "You lose 3-1 and it's tough to swallow, especially because we gave up three very bad goals. We need to do a better job defensively, but we did do a good job of carrying the game and creating some offensive chances.

"I think that we showed a lot of character to claw our way back and get the momentum on our side. But giving away that third goal made it tough for us to regain the momentum when we had things going our way. That was a bad strike for us...to give up that third goal was backbreaking."

In spite of conceding that third United goal, the Crew looked like a different team in the second half, with inspired play that saw them applying regular pressure on the United backline.

"I thought we recovered well after their second goal, had some momentum and got some things going at the end of the first half," said Andrulis. "We came out of the locker room and I thought we played very well. We had a couple good chances that we didn't put away ... but the guys fought back and showed a lot of character."

Cornell Glen, getting a tryout up front in place of regular starter Ante Razov, was a bright spot for Andrulis's side. Glen was in the mix throughout, stretching the defense and creating some chances, though he was unable to convert.

"Cornell created an awful lot of havoc for us and made some great runs," said Andrulis. "As he gets fitter, he'll be dangerous for longer stretches of time."

Glen wasn't the only that Columbus player that impressed despite of the losing effort. It was an evening of firsts for Crew midfielder Dominic Mediate. Making his first MLS start, he scored his first professional goal in the 69th minute with a side volley off a cross from Szetela, the Crew's first goal in more than five hours of play.

"We knew they'd come high pressure for the first 15 minutes, and that's what they did," said Mediate. "[Going down two goals early] is a tough situation to put ourselves in and a tough situation to come back from. ... Luckily we were able to get one and I thought we might be able to turn things around."

But Adu came back less than two minutes later for United, carrying the ball calmly on his left foot through the box, and striking a low shot which caromed of the left post and put the Crew away for good. The 17-year-old Szetela said his team certainly had its opportunities to produce a different outcome.

"After [United] scored their two goals, we picked up our game," said Szetela. "I thought we dominated in the second half. We had four or five opportunities that we didn't finish, and at the end of the game it comes down to who scores the goals."

Expect one area Andrulis to focus on in the upcoming week to be cutting down on giving the ball away, particularly in the midfield. "It was our turnovers and mistakes that led to all of [United's] chances and we've got to do a better job," he said.

Busch, for his part, is willing to take much of the responsibility himself as his team goes back to the drawing board.

"If we can sort ourselves out [defensively] and not give up early goals, we're going to be in games," said Busch. "We are giving up way too many goals right now and it's on my shoulders as much as anyone else. I need to be the leader and the quarterback back there.

"I'm tired of picking the ball out of the back of the net," he said.

Omar Garriott is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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