COLUMBUS, Ohio – Before the Columbus Crew faced the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium this past Saturday, they had scored 11 goals in their previous 15 road games. Determined to end Columbus’ goal drought away from home, Crew head coach Robert Warzycha threw everything he had offensively at the Revs.
“They hold the line so high,” Warzycha said of New England. “We said before the game we are going to be very direct. We’re going to put the ball in the corner and chase every single ball."
The result was a 3-0 victory behind a brace by Andrés Mendoza and Dilly Duka’s first goal in MLS. Columbus were also caught offside 15 times, two more than the team’s previous record of 13.
“Maybe it was something new for the guys and sometimes they went too early,” Warzycha said. “We were on the edge and we were looking for the ball behind. That was the key to the game.”
In the end, the Crew exploited the Revolution’s year-long weakness to good effect, and in doing so, clinched a playoff berth for themselves.
Lost among the biggest road output in 29 games was the brilliant stop by Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer just 35 seconds after Mendoza gave Columbus a 1-0 lead at the half-hour mark.
Milton Caraglio unleashed a 30-yard strike that was deflected halfway to goal by Crew defender Chad Marshall. Hesmer was diving to his left when the ball was slightly redirected. He stuck his right foot in the air and caught a piece of the ball to deny the equalizer.
“That moment was inexcusable,” Hesmer said. “We score a goal, we know right off the bat those next five minutes you’re vulnerable and you’ve got to bear down and focus and be that much more attentive and we weren’t. It almost cost us.”
Some in the media think Warzycha predicted the Crew would win the East in the season finale Saturday at Chicago when he was quoted postmatch as saying, “I think we are going to go to win the Eastern Conference.”
What he meant was that he would go all-out to win the match and not rest his starters despite securing a playoff berth.
If the Crew are to win the East, however, they’ll need help from elsewhere. Columbus trail East-leading Sporting Kansas City and Philadelphia by a point heading into the final week of the season.
A number of things
33: Games played this year by Sebastián Miranda after last Saturday to set a team single-season record. This is the first time MLS has played a 34-game schedule.
13: Goals by Mendoza, the most for a Crew in a season since Jeff Cunningham had 16 in 2002.