The Columbus Crew put the finishing touches on one of the finest seasons in Major League Soccer history, extending their league-record unbeaten streak to 18 games and clinching the Supporters Shield for the first time in club history, hanging on for a contentious 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night in Denver.
The goals came on either side of halftime, Duncan Oughton giving the Crew a 40th-minute lead and the Rapids levelling the match through a Chris Henderson penalty two minutes after the halftime break. But that was enough for the Crew to win the Supporters Shield despite the Kansas City Wizards' victory on Saturday, as the teams had the same number of points and the same goal differential, but Columbus scored two more goals on the campaign.
Both teams appeared to be revving up for the playoffs from the start as a tightly contested affair in midfield was punctuated by frequent fouls from both teams. By the end of the night, referee Michael Kennedy whistled for 39 fouls in the match.
After the Crew had gone close from Chad Marshall on a set piece header early, another Crew chance off of a free kick came in the 27th minute. Simon Elliott's free kick looked perfectly placed for Buddle, but goalie Joe Cannon was quick off of his line to punch away the ball. Cannon came up huge for the Rapids again in the 28th minute, going low to stuff Buddle's breakaway shot.
Then in the 40th minute, Buddle started the sequence that led to the Crew's goal, finding Danny Szetela wide open and streaking down the right flank. Szetela's cross just missed a diving Kyle Martino, but it fell directly to Oughton, who one-timed it low into the near side-netting. The assist was the first point of the 17-year-old Szetela's MLS career.
But just after the restart, Alberto Delgado took advantage of a poor Robin Fraser touch to dribble into the box where he was tripped up by the Crew's Tony Sanneh at the top of the area and referee Kennedy pointed to the spot. Henderson's shot was struck hard to the right, beating Jon Busch, who guessed wrong and dived left.
The Rapids almost scored again in the 49th minute. Kyle Beckerman's hard shot was fumbled by Busch, but Delgado was unable to push the rebound goalward. Beckerman then later had another good effort at goal, but his hard shot by was directed straight at Busch
Dante Washington made his return to the league, coming on for Sanneh in the 70th minute, and he and Szetela nearly combined for a Crew goal with a quarter-hour left. Szetela's hard shot from the top of the box was blocked by Cannon, who then had trouble holding on to the ball. Washington stormed in to attempt to jam the ball into the net, but Cannon was well placed to block his effort.
The final 15 minutes saw little in the way of attacking action, each team seeing one player booked by Kennedy as the playoff intensity started to kick in.
The MLS Cup Playoffs will begin for real for both teams next weekend, the Eastern Conference top seed Crew traveling to New England to face the Revolution on Sat., Oct. 23 (7:30 p.m. ET), while the Colorado Rapids play host to the Los Angeles Galaxy at Invesco Field on Fri., Oct 22 (9:30 p.m. ET).
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Danny Szetela (Columbus Crew)
Columbus Crew (12-5-13) vs. Colorado Rapids (10-9-11)
October 16, 2004 -- Invesco Field at Mile High
CLB -- Duncan Oughton 2 (Danny Szetela 1, Edson Buddle 2) 40
COL -- Chris Henderson 3 (penalty kick) 47
Columbus Crew -- Jon Busch, Nelson Akwari, Robin Fraser, Chad Marshall, Danny Szetela, Simon Elliott, Duncan Oughton, Tony Sanneh (Dante Washington 71), Chris Wingert, Edson Buddle (Jeff Cunningham 56), Kyle Martino (Manny Lagos 89).
Substitutes Not Used: Frankie Hejduk, Matt Jordan.
TOTAL SHOTS: 9 (Chad Marshall 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (4 tied with 1); FOULS: 20 (Robin Fraser 4); OFFSIDES: 1 (Duncan Oughton 1); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Simon Elliott 3); SAVES: 6 (Jon Busch 6)
Colorado Rapids -- Joe Cannon, Matt Crawford, Nat Borchers, Ritchie Kotschau, Ricky Lewis, Chris Henderson, Kyle Beckerman, Seth Trembly, Rey Angel Martinez (Gary Sullivan 86), Jordan Cila, Alberto Delgado.
Substitutes Not Used: Mark Chung, Antonio de la Torre, Michael Erush, Jean Philippe Peguero, Daryl Powell, John Spencer, Scott Vallow.
TOTAL SHOTS: 15 (3 tied with 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 7 (Chris Henderson 3); FOULS: 19 (Seth Trembly 4); OFFSIDES: 2 (Alberto Delgado 2); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Seth Trembly 3); SAVES: 3 (Joe Cannon 3)
CLB -- Danny Szetela (caution; Dissent) 63
CLB -- Robin Fraser (caution; Reckless Foul) 78
COL -- Matt Crawford (caution; Persistent Infringement) 84
Referee: Michael Kennedy
Referee's Assistants: Chris Strickland; Emiliano Monje
4th Official: Hilario Grajeda
Time of Game: 1:48
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial