COLUMBUS, Ohio – Even though the scoreless draw with San Jose on Saturday continued the Crew’s good recent run, there is something missing.
“Not only are you thinking about three (points), but building into something better,” goalkeeper William Hesmer said when asked if he was happy with the tie. “By that I mean finding an identity — your style of play, your personnel, what suits you best, what type of team you’re going to be."
“That will eventually come,” he added. “We’re a young team.”
The Crew (7-5-7, 28 points) have stayed competitive in the Eastern Conference with a 4-1-2 run, despite injuries to forward Emilio Renteria, defender Shaun Francis, midfielder Dilly Duka and others.
With that in mind, the Crew went to a 4-5-1 formation with rookies Rich Balchan, Bernardo Anor and Eric Gehrig in the middle.
“If we had all the guys available, we would be sharper,” coach Robert Warzycha said.
By the start of the second half, Eddie Gaven had moved from the right to the attacking midfielder role occupied by Anor, and later Warzycha went with three strikers with the additions of Tommy Heinemann and Jeff Cunningham.
Columbus put six of their 13 shots on target, but former Crew ‘keeper Jon Busch was as stellar as Hesmer, who made five stops for his second straight shutout, seventh of the season and the 41st of his career.
“Hesmer was the Man of the Match,” James said. “If I was in the (other) locker room, I’m probably sure the other goalkeeper was the Man of the Match also. It was some great offensive football.”
San Jose peppered the Crew with a lot of long shots and Hesmer twice parried balls over the crossbar. He also denied Chris Wondolowski’s header in the 75th minute.
“The shots from distance happened early at the start of the second half,” Hesmer said. “We’re playing three in the midfield against their three in the midfield at the start of each half. You’re responsible somewhere in there in letting them get off shots.”
Earlier in the match, Hesmer prevented the Earthquakes from taking the lead in the 61st minute when he denied Simon Dawkins after a high bouncer eluded Crew defender Chad Marshall at the top of the penalty area.
The ball fell to Dawkins and he dribbled to seven yards out, but he was unable to get a full chip toward goal and Hesmer made a leaping kick save with his left heel.
“Guys make fun of my start jump,” Hesmer said. “Luckily I got the a little bottom foot on it. I’d have to go back and look at the tape but I’m pretty sure that was a foul on Chad. I’m not sure what happened.
“It popped right up to (Dawkins) for a volley,” he said. “If I stay where I was he can throw it over me, drive it wherever he wants. So I jumped to make sure he couldn’t lob it over me. I tried to make it hard on him. I got lucky it hit one of my feet.”
Overall, though, Hesmer was not pleased with the Crew’s performance.
“We gave them a lot of good looks actually, and we were lucky enough not to give one up,” he said. “The looks we got made it real easy for Buschy.”