The Columbus Crew's offseason acquisition of Ante Razov paid immediate dividends on Saturday evening at Crew Stadium as the Black-and-Gold opened the 2005 season with a dominating 3-0 victory against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Edson Buddle scored two goals, but Razov hit the post in the opening minutes, assisted on Buddle's second goal, and capped the night with the Crew's final tally.
"His leadership and communication were great. He brings some different things to our forward line. For those of you that have been around, he brings something you haven't seen in a while," said Columbus head coach Greg Andrulis. "That is why we were so aggressive to get him in the offseason. He is only going to get better as he gets in shape."
Kyle Martino settled back into the classic playmaker role after experimenting in a withdrawn forward position much of last season, but he showed a real comfort level in the position.
"He is dangerous every time he gets the ball. I thought in the first half, he was coming too deep again. We talked about it at half time and we didn't see him anymore back there," said Andrulis. "One of the problems with the first half was that everything was long and over the top. We did better in the second half playing to Kyle and then to our forwards' feet."
Martino quickly meshed with Razov despite not having much interaction during the preseason.
"I can't remember if Kyle and Ante played together once in the preseason," said Andrulis. "The triangle will only grow as those guys play together."
With the Galaxy not threatening the Crew's defense for much of the game, goalkeeper Jon Busch was full of comments on his team's firepower.
"I didn't much to do. Offensively, we looked fantastic," said Busch. "Ante adds so much to our team. It was a good overall performance with Kyle and Simon in the midfield."
Captain Robin Fraser was also full of compliments for the entire team.
"We were constantly trying to get better during the preseason and tonight we came out and gave a great effort. Edson and Ante did a great job of showing and holding the ball up for us," said Fraser. "It was a good team effort. The midfield and the backs did a good job too." Busch and Fraser also loved the timing of Buddle's second goal, minutes into the second half as the Crew were playing into the wind.
"We still wanted to attack, but we didn't want to give anything away. Our goal was not to give up a goal in the first 10 minutes (of the second half)," said Busch. "The bonus was that we got a goal early. It opened the game up because they had to come after us more and then we got the third goal."
Buddle scored two goals on the evening while touching the ball minimally. In fact, both goals were initially given to other people before video replay proved he was the goal scorer. On his first goal, Buddle was able to ever so slightly redirect a cross by Manny Lagos. Then on the second, he deflected home a Razov free kick swung in from the right.
"It is always nice to start out good. Ante is a good target and has a lot of experience. I have fun playing with him," said Buddle. "It was good night for me. I was able to get open and get two goals."
John Kuhn is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.