The biggest play that contributed to the slumping Crew’s 1-0 loss at Philadelphia didn’t occur at PPL Park on Saturday.
No, it was a collision Wednesday between Houston forward Will Bruin and Crew captain Chad Marshall that forced the center back out of that game with a hip flexor strain and caused him to miss his first match of the season against the Union.
Without the two-time MLS Defender of the Year, it was left to rookie Eric Gehrig in only his eighth appearance to fill the large void.
“You can’t really replace a Chad Marshall,” Gehrig said. “You try to go out there and do your best."
“Overall I thought I did a pretty good job. We kept things tight,” he added. “Too bad the game was decided on that one play.”
He was referring to the goal by Sebastien Le Toux in the 32nd minute in which Gehrig figured prominently, although his teammates offered little support.
Philadelphia got the decisive score after Crew forward Andres Mendoza lost the ball in the middle third of the field and the Union started the other way with Roger Torres on the right flank.
Torres spotted Le Toux sneak behind Gehrig, who was trying to close down the play, and right back Sebastian Miranda.
Torres lofted the ball ahead to the fast-breaking Le Toux.
“I’m not going to blame anyone else,” Gehrig said. “I was guarding Sebastien Le Toux. I probably should have stuck with him. I was trying to hold the line with the team, but at the end of the day I let him slip behind me.”
Goalkeeper William Hesmer faced a do-I-stay-or-do-I-go situation, and he opted to come out to the penalty spot only to see Le Toux push the ball past him to the near post.
“We didn’t put enough pressure on the ball and in that case didn’t drop far enough back,” midfielder Danny O’Rourke said. “We all take blame for that. We have to do better.”The Crew, without forward Emilio Renteria (concussion) and midfielders Eddie Gaven (lower leg contusion) and Emmanuel Ekpo (red card suspension), offered little offensive with a Mendoza try in the 15th minute the lone shot on goal.
Although the Crew (11-10-8, 41 points) have three losses and a tie in the past four games, they remain a point ahead of second-place Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference while Philadelphia and Houston moved to 39 points.