OBETZ, Ohio — The Crew’s 2-0 win against Real Salt Lake on Saturday was not only impressive because they beat the best home in MLS over the past three seasons, but it also offered up a bit of history for Columbus.
When Eddie Gaven scored in the fifth minute and Tommy Heinemann followed five minutes later, it marked the second time in the club’s regular-season and playoff history (514 games) that they had a 2-0 lead after 10 minutes. It was also the first time they boasted such a lead in 258 away matches.
The only other occassion, home or away, came way back in the club’s inaugural season, when Brian Maisonneuve (third minute) and Brian McBride (fifth) staked the Crew to the advantage en route to a 2-1 win over the Kansas City Wiz (now Sporting Kansas City) in Ohio Stadium on Aug. 24, 1996.
“It started too early,” Wiz coach Ron Newman quipped back then. "It should have been a 7:45 kickoff."
Gaven was happy to be a part of history, but more pleased that the Crew got off to such a good start after scoring only four first-half goals in the first 21 games.
“It’s cool to be a part of a record,” he said. “It’s nice just to be able to get some goals early. It takes a little pressure off our defense.”
The Crew (9-6-7, 34 points) won for the first time in four league tries at Rio Tinto Stadium and handed RSL just their sixth home loss in the past 67 home games across all competitions.
Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum had his second straight shutout subbing for the injured William Hesmer and was glad to see a quick lead that was fueled by two Robbie Rogers assists, but he couldn’t relax until the final whistle.
“When we got two goals, I had flashbacks to the Chicago game [in 2009] when we gave up two late goals and tied 2-2, and that was at home,” Gruenebaum said. “It was an unbelievable team effort. You could tell the guys were shagged but they battled through all the way to the end.”
What’s remarkable about the quick strikes was that Columbus previously had only 17 road goals in the opening 10 minutes in 16 seasons.
The record for the fastest Crew goal still belongs to Adrian Paz, who stunned Tampa Bay 26 seconds into Game 2 of the 1996 Eastern Conference semifinals in Houlihan’s Stadium in Tampa.
In fact, early scores were the norm during the infancy of the league. A quarter of the Crew’s 56 goals by the 10th minute occurred in the first two seasons. They had a stretch of four straight games with goals by the 10th minute in 1996.
Crew coach Robert Warzycha, who had three goals in the first 10 minutes in a Columbus career that began that year, has noticed the changes.
“In the beginning of the league, they brought in forwards and guys who could score the goals,” he said. “Right now, we have pretty good defenders. Every single team in the league has two guys in the middle that are pretty good.”
McBride is the team leader in goals by the 10th minute with seven, including two in the 1998 playoffs. Current Crew forward Jeff Cunningham has five while Stern John and Edson Buddle had four. Gaven has three, while assistant coach Mike Lapper notched one.