Game 5 – Crew 1 – Houston 0
I have seen the Crew not play well for years now. Last night they certainly were not playing their quick passing offensive game. The midfield broke down quite a bit. The defense gave up some quality shots and dangerous free kicks; even goalkeeper William Hesmer bobbled a couple of shots. Here is where the narrative diverges from one of the many games I watched the last three years, the Crew won this game. The team dug deep and pulled out three points at home.
Houston struck out first with a free kick off of one of the many fouls that the Crew seemingly committed on the edge of the box. DeRosario finished a Brad Davis driven ball but the goal was waved off for offside. Houston had gotten close but would not score. This would set the tone of the game.
The offense was not clicking most of the night. They hade a couple of strong periods of possession, but the most consistently dangerous part of the offense was Schelotto’s corner kicks. This first one ended with the best result, a Crew goal. Schelotto’s outswinging corner fell towards a diving Chad Marshall. Marshall’s head shot rocketed towards the net, but was deflected. In the scramble, Alejandro Moreno was able to jump on the ball and fire it past Houston’s ‘keeper Pat Onstad. It was not the best looking goal the Crew have scored this year, but it would end up the margin of victory.
The rest of the first half was a back and forth game. The Crew had some periods of possession. Rogers started a breakout that went corner flag to corner flag that included a series of passes that included Rogers to Schelotto, back to Rogers, a Rogers pass to the right to Gaven, who found an overlapping Hejduk. Hejduk’s cross was dangerous, but grabbed by Onstad. Rogers also started another dangerous series down the left side. He centered to Schelotto who found a driving Padula. Padula’s right footed shot rocketed just high of the goal.
Houston then started building possession in the last minutes of the first half. Building through the wings, Houston was able to create a few chances. DeRosario lofted a ball across the goal that Marshall cleared to the edge of the box. Another shot was driven in and Hesmer bobbled the ball It fell to Carrachio. Again, the Crew bent, but did not break as Carroll had come back from his defensive midfield position to block the path to goal. Hesmer then jumped on the ball in the resulting scramble to deny Houston a tying goal.
Houston would build pressure throughout the second half, but the Crew defense would not break. Columbus would start to bunker and play the long ball more. Possession broke down and Houston would have several attempts to equalize. The Crew also had several attempts cleared off the line from a couple of corner kicks and Padula had another great shot off of a free kick that careened off the crossbar. As the seconds ticked off the clock, I had a growing sense that the Crew were killing off the game. Houston started playing desperately and more directly. Houston did get off a couple good attempts, but the Crew continued to bend not break.
It was winning ugly. It was doing what needs to be done. It was something I haven’t seen very often watching the Crew. I actually felt they had what it took to close out the game. With the crowd and the supporters section loud, a group of tireless workers on the field, and a team that has been working together for a while now this is a team on a mission. I certainly expect the playoffs are within reach. I also think this team can stay towards the top of the East. I am even considering saving the pennies in the hope the Crew will be playing in Los Angeles in November. They are going to lose again and are going to hit some rough stretches, but there is something special happening at Crew Stadium this year. It is apparent even on nights where you struggle everywhere except on the scoreboard. Kansas City, you have been warned.