For the second straight year, the Crew opened the season on the road with a two-goal loss.
Last year, a 3-1 defeat at D.C. United wasn’t a foreshadowing of things to come. The Crew rebounded to post four straight shutouts and eventually made the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, although they were eliminated by Colorado – the same club that defeated them Saturday night – in both years.
With that in mind, revenge might have been a motivating factor heading into Saturday’s game at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. If it was, it wasn’t enough to turn the tide as the Crew lost to the Rapids 2-0.
HIGHLIGHTS: Rapids 2, Crew 0
“We have to be more aggressive,” Columbus coach Robert Warzycha told MLSsoccer.com in a phone conversation after the match. “We were late to the balls all game.”
Beyond the scoreline, it was an ominous start for the Crew.
Midfielder and US Olympic hopeful Dilly Duka left the match in the 12th minute with an apparent hamstring injury.
“I think he could be out for awhile,” Warzycha said. “I don’t know if it would have made a difference, but [Duka] would have put us in good position to score.”
Also, captain Chad Marshall, who has a long history of concussions, went to the sideline early in the match after a knock to the head, but returned and was the Crew’s most effective offensive threat with several good headers.
Otherwise, Columbus were goal-challenged in part because of an inexperienced midfield. Rookie Kirk Urso got the start in defensive midfield and first-round SuperDraft pick Ethan Finlay replaced Duka.
“I think they felt some pressure,” Warzycha said. “They had some good moments, but they also had some bad moments.”
The match also marked the debut of two high-profile offseason acquisitions. Midfielder Milovan Mirosevic went the distance and had a 30th-minute shot saved by Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens. Forward Olman Vargas came on for midfielder Tony Tchani for the final 23 minutes.
Mirosevic, who was fouled four times, and Vargas, who suffered one, each received yellow cards as welcoming gifts to MLS.
“Milo was probably fouled five or six times, so he couldn’t let it go. The same with Vargas,” Warzycha said. “It’s a good sign. The guys are fighting and aren’t going to be pushed around.”
The Crew have two weeks to regroup for the home opener March 24 against the Montreal Impact.
“We have to figure it out,” Warzycha said. “We will.”