Game 18 – Crew 2 – Rapids 0
That was a game that the Crew had no right to win. The team was under constant pressure and the offense was absent. The players really looked uncomfortable in the new formation and they were down a man for over half the game. Soccer is a team sport, but there are times that an individual performance lifts an entire team. William Hesmer had one of those games. There was not a shot that he couldn’t stop. It was lucky for the Crew, as that was the only way they were going to win.
I was concerned how the Crew were going to adapt to the new formation and the answer came pretty quickly. Colorado was able to exploit the space behind Gaven and Hejduk to create several early opportunities. Conor Casey had a point blank shot that Hesmer parried away (the first of many) and Colin Clark forced Danny O’Rourke into a yellow card foul. It was reminiscent of many Crew games in Colorado, but the unlikely duo of Miglioranzi and Lenhart would shock the Rapids with a brilliant combination to put the Crew up 1-0. It was like the Chicago game in reverse; I was even expecting the Rapids comeback.
The Rapids would try to oblige. The Crew were forced to withstand wave after wave of Colorado attacks. The Crew had no answer, as it seemed the Rapids could pass the ball around with impunity. Hesmer came up big and Colorado flubbed several chances to keep the Crew up one as halftime neared. The Crew had a few attacks, but even this would lead to added pressure on seemingly at the breaking point as Lenhart went from goal scoring hero to hot headed rookie in one swift elbow. It doesn’t matter if he connected to Facundo Erpen; he had malicious intent. The Crew were able to escape the first half with a lead that seemingly wouldn’t hold, especially being a man down.
It felt like the equalizer was coming, but it never came. The shaky defense bent, but did not break. Hesmer cleaned almost everything else, and anything left was just wide or cruelly off the crossbar. Colorado has some fight left, but even that was crushed by the singularly great work from the perennially underpeforming forward Jason Garey. His goal crushed any real hope of a Rapids comeback.
It was a determined second half team effort. Hesmer shown brightest with save after save, but Garey had a great game even without the goal. Gaven hustled even though he looked exhausted by the 75th minute. I could go on about each player, but it really came down to an ugly, scrambling, gritty struggle to get three points. Yes, the Crew has some luck. You have to when you are outshot 23 to 7 and the other team takes 17 corner kicks to your 0, but the team showed that they trust each other to get the job done. They would not settle for a draw and came out winners. The holes in the defense are still there, but the Crew still pulled out the win. I still look at this team as one that can do some damage in the playoffs. While people will talk about New England or the Fire with McBride as playoff favorites, the Crew will keep working and may just surprise people.