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Game 1: Crew 1 – Dynamo 1

March 22, 2009

The 2009 season started off with more of the same from the Crew. Schelotto leading the offense, a stout defense, the Crew falling behind and then coming back to get a result. It may not have been a win, but it was another impressive result against a tough opponent.

Coach Warzycha set out the same formation that the Crew utilized last year; the only change was Ekpo playing the two way midfield role. It was an impressive first half display. The Crew controlled possession and consistently pinned Houston back in their own half. Despite having the better run of play, the Crew were unable to break though in the first half.

The first half also started the first controversy of the 2009 season. One of the Schelotto’s many set pieces found the head of Chad Marshall who powered the ball past a flat footed Pat Onsted. While the masses at Claddagh celebrated, referee Tim Weyland called off the goal due to Marshall supposedly pushing off;

I could not decide whether there was a a foul or not after watching the replay a half dozen times. Weyland was in better position so it may be one of the calls he got right on the night. Whether or not the call was right, the Crew went into halftime tied a zero.

The second half was a reverse of the first. The Dynamo adjusted and started pressing the Crew. Houston finally broke through the Crew defense with a quick break and even quicker passing. The Padula and Alex Grendi were caught up field. O’Rourke was drawn out to cover, Chris Wondolowski’s pass slipped past Marshall right into the path of Brian Ching, who slipped it past Hesmer to put Houston up 1-0.

The Crew pressed in an effort to find an equalizer, but the offense that had looked good in the first half started to sputter. The Crew started losing the battle of the midfield as Grendi struggled to adequately replace the injured Rogers and Emmanuel Ekpo started to wear out. Houston continued to have control of the ball and the Crew struggled to string together passes and press the Dynamo defense. Columbus was even a little lucky not to go further down as Houston had a couple of great goal scoring chances.

Even when the Crew looked short of ideas, they pulled out some of last year’s magic to grab a point on the road. There was even an unknown rookie in the middle of the action to set up the goal. Alex Grendi’s first MLS action was shaky, but he lobbed a hopeful ball towards the penalty area in the 80th minute. An unmarked Jason Garey headed a perfect ball back to Schelotto who one timed a shot past Onsted and tied up the game.

The Crew would hang on for the tie and get a valuable point on the road. With the way the Crew started, I could see the Crew scoring a couple of goals and getting the full three points, but Houston stepped up and put the Crew off balance. In the end, a tie is probably a fair result and the best indication that this season will be tougher than last year. Rogers, Moreno, Hejduk, Noonan, Moffat, and Oughton may be out due to injury or national team duty against a Toronto team that put up three goals at Kansas City. Next week is another tough game, but being the champs is never easy.

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