COLUMBUS - The Columbus Crew lost for the first time at Crew Stadium in 2006 and were unable to build on their first victory of the season as they dropped a 1-0 decision to the Kansas City Wizards on Saturday night. The loss left a sour taste for the club because the Black-and-Gold felt they played better than their Eastern Conference rivals throughout the match.
"It was a game I thought we didn't deserve to lose," said Crew head coach Sigi Schmid. "I thought over the 90 minutes that we were the better team."
After the match, many of the Crew players echoed the same thoughts.
"I don't think they deserved three points, to be honest with you," said Jon Busch. "I have always spoken my mind and I think they stole one tonight."
Columbus kept the high-scoring Wizards forwards under control for much of the night in spite of a last-minute change in the back when Chad Marshall failed a fitness test before the match.
"I thought we played well. We created a lot of chances," said Busch. "We pretty much handled them defensively except for maybe one or two times."
Added Schmid: "I thought Rusty Pierce and [Ritchie] Kotschau played well. Rusty has played well for us all season. I thought we had them at bay. A lot of their shots were from 30 yards."
Pierce and Kotschau paired as the central defensive duo for the first time because Marcos Gonzalez and Marshall were ruled out through injuries. Despite not playing together before in the center of defense, the two meshed quickly on the field.
"It worked out because we were both talking to each other quite a bit. We were not crossing paths," said Kotschau. "I think overall defensively we were pretty decent, just like last game."
Added Busch: "Chad is a very good player and we missed certain parts of his game like in the air. We have other guys who can fill in admirably in his place. I thought (left back) Timmy Ward did a wonderful job once he settled in. Rusty and Ritchie did great."
The ability of the backline to limit the Wizards to few scoring chances despite the injuries is a testament to the depth and ability that the Crew have built in their defense.
"We had to tell Timmy Ward at the last minute that he is starting. In fact, he wasn't going to be in the (18-man roster)," said Schmid. "We didn't think (Chris) Leitch was 90 minutes fit and Ezra (Hendrickson) just came over. He has a little kink in his neck."
In addition to thsse injuries, Eddie Gaven left the match after 15 minutes by way of a rough tackle by Kerry Zavagnin.
"It is tough when you lose one starter, Chad Marshall, before the game and lose another (Gaven) 10 minutes into the game," said Schmid. "He gets stepped on in the mid-shin area and it is not even a card."
In spite of the loss, the Crew seemed upbeat with the continuation of better play in recent games.
"We were playing the team that is first in our conference and we played better than them. We deserved at least a draw. We have to continue playing like this because I think we are improving," said Sebastian Rozental. "The result was not there, but we need to continue working like this because it is the right way. Winning will come for sure."
Schmid also saw an upside in the loss.
"If you look at our game against them in week one to now, you can see a huge improvement in our team and that is minus a lot of players that would be competing for starting spots," said Schmid.
John Kuhn is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.