Friday night, Crew Stadium played host to the Zac Brown Band before the Black & Gold's match against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night. The Crew Stadium groundscrew worked tirelessly around the clock to return the playing surface to its match-ready condition.
"We started last night at 11 o'clock doing work, and we ended just now at 3:45 p.m.," head grounskeeper Weston Appelfeller said Saturday afternoon. "It took 15 hours to get the field turned around. I think we're ready. It looks good, and hopefully it plays well."
Appelfeller has taken pride in having Major League Soccer's top playing surface all season long, and tonight's match shouldn't be any different.
The Crew kicks off against the Union at 7:30 p.m. ET, and plenty of tickets still remain at the Crew Stadium box office.
It's going to be a busy weekend around Crew Stadium. Tonight, Major League Soccer's first soccer-specific stadium will host the Grammy-award winning Zac Brown Band in the stadium's third concert event of 2012. And of course on Saturday night, the tiles shown above will be taken away, and MLS's best kept field will play host to the Crew taking on the Philadelphia Union in a pivotal Eastern Conference matchup.
Tickets still remain for both events.
To help celebrate the release of EA Sports FIFA 13 and look ahead to the Crew's remaining four matches, I will be playing against a different Crew player each week as one of the team's upcoming opponents. This week, I squared off with rookie midfielder Kevan George playing as the Crew, while I took control of the Philadelphia Union.
Many Crew Youth products began conference play at their respective universiities this week. Here are some highlights from across the country:
Akron Zips- (5-1-2) This Week: 2-0 vs. Bowling Green
The Zips kicked off MAC play with a 2-0 win against in-state rival Bowling Green. Captain Chad Barson, Wil Trapp, Andrew Souders, Eric Stevenson, and Thomas Schmitt all contributed to the shutout.
Louisville Cardinals (5-3-0) This Week: 4-0 W vs. Ohio State, 2-1 W vs. Notre Dame
The University of Louisville responded after a loss to rival Kentucky with a 4-0 dismantling of Ohio State before knocking off No. 4 Notre Dame to open Big East play. Alex Obbey started and registered a shot in each of the victories.
Xavier Musketeers- (5-0-2) This week: 2-0 W at IPFW, 1-0 W vs. Missouri St.
The Musketeers earned back-to-back victories this week with wins over IPFW and Missouri State. Crew Soccer Academy product Will Walker registered an assist in the win against IPFW, while his brother Matt's blast in the 81st minute broke the 0-0 stalemate to lead Xavier to victory over Missouri State.
UCLA Bruins- (5-1-2) This Week: 1-1 D at UCSB, 1-0 W at Cal Poly
Captain Matt Wiet led the Bruins to a 1-1 stalemate with UC Santa Barbara in a nationally televised affair on Friday night before beating Cal Poly on Sunday. Wiet played in every minute of both matches.
Photo Credit: UofLsports.com
Original Crew players Todd Yeagley and Brian Maisonneuve returned to Columbus on Sunday to lead the Indiana Hoosiers to a 2-0 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes in the teams' Big Ten opener. Yeagley, the Hoosiers' Head Coach, and his assistant, Maisonneuve, were happy to be back in their old stomping grounds.
"Columbus is a great town," Maisonneuve said after the match. "I tell everybody I spent nine years here, and it does feel like a second home at times. Driving through, it's neat to look around and see the changes. It's a great city with some unbelievable people."
"There are a lot of good fans here and we know so many people from when we were here for so many years. We have some pretty close ties. It's just neat to see everybody," the inaugural Crew captain continued.
"It's always fun to see the familiar area," Yeagley added. "We trained here at Ohio State in the early years, over in the general spot by the Horseshoe. It always brings back great memories when we pass the Varsity Club and other spots. It's always good to be back."
Yeagley, Maisonneuve, and the Hoosiers are 6-1-1 this season and currently ranked No. 15 in the NSCAA poll. IU has its sight set on its eighth National Championship, and first since Danny O'Rourke led the Cream and Crimson to back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004. But Yeagley says his squad has a way to go to reach its full potential.
"We don't quite know what we have with this group right now," the Head Coach explained. "We've been inconsistent in performances and we need to get better with consistency. We're sitting well with results at this point, but we know what it's going to take to make a deep run. We've shown signs that we can, but there have also been signs that we need time."
"We're just looking to get better each week and see where we can go with this."
Photo credit: IU Athletics
While preparations were being made ahead of tonight's match between the Crew and Chivas USA, a message from U.S. Men's National Team coach Jürgen Klinsmann was found scrawled on the white board in the Crew coaches' office left following the US's 1-0 victory over Jamaica at Crew Stadium last week:
"Coach Robert & Crew Coaching Staff,
Thanks a lot for having us and we are looking forward to coming back again!
Good luck for the rest of the season!
YOU CAN MAKE IT!
Coach Jürgen & Martin Vasquez"
Robert Warzycha was happy to have the support from Klinsmann as the Crew vies for a playoff spot.
"It shows we have classy National Team coaches," Warzycha said. "They obviously care about MLS and about us doing the right things."
Plenty of Crew Youth Alumni were in action this weekend in NCAA Division I men's soccer. Here are some of the highlights:
Akron Zips- (4-1-2) This Week: 0-0 D vs. St. John's, 5-0 W vs. USF
Friday's 0-0 nationally televised match between the Zips and St. John's resulted in a 0-0 stalemate. Akron responded on Sunday with a 5-0 thumping of USF. Eric Stevenson scored the third goal in the rout.
Ohio State Buckeyes- (3-3-0) This Week: 2-1 W vs. DePaul
Defenders and Crew Youth prouducts Sage Gardner and Zach Mason each registered a shot on goal in the Buckeyes' 2-1 win over DePaul on Friday night. Ohio State will face tough task as Louiville visits Columbus on Tuesday.
Xavier Musketeers- (4-0-2) This week: 1-1 D at Virginia
The Musketeers went on the road to battle Virginia to a 1-1 draw, remaining unbeaten this season. Freshman Rhodes Moore earned his first start in the draw.
UCLA Bruins- (4-1-1) This Week: 1-0 W vs. Loyola Marymount
Captain Matt Wiet helped the Bruins to a clean sheet victory against crosstown rivals Loyola Marymount on Friday night. UCLA will travel north to UC Santa Barbara this weekend for a clash with the Guachos in a nationally televised match on FOX Soccer.
Through his first six matches (five starts), there is no denying that Federico Higuaín has made an instant impact in the Crew attack with his three goals and six assists since joining the team last month.
But at the same token, perhaps teams are starting to learn how to defend against the Argentine. Following last Wednesday's loss in New England-- the only hiccup the Crew has had since Higuaín joined the club-- Revolution coach Jay Heaps was pleased with how his team disrupted the forward in the final third.
"Columbus is a rhythm team and we never really let them get into rhythm," the first-year head coach explained following his team's victory. "And that was important that [Jairo] Arrieta and [Federico] Higuain couldn’t get the ball. And that was our focus – when they did get the ball, we wanted a guy on them quickly. You could see when Higuain would get the ball we were on him, and he started to drift wider and we knew to take him there."
The OPTA Chalkboards below illustrate where Higuaín's activity and distribution has been on the field over his first five starts in Black & Gold. As you can see, Heaps was correct in that his team forced Higuaín out onto the right wing more often. What is more noticable is that most of Higuaín's activity is coming in the middle third and teams are starting to limit his touches in and around the penalty area. Also, it seems Higuaín was dropping the ball off to players behind him more often in New England last week.
From what these charts show, perhaps teams are starting to learn Higuaín's tendencies a bit as they study more film on the Argentine playmaker. At the same time, Higuaín is learning to exploit MLS defenses as he adjusts to the league as well. And maybe teams picking up on Higuaín's tendencies isn't such a bad thing either. As the Argentine attracts defenders, it opens up space and opportunities for Jairo Arrieta, Eddie Gaven, Dilly Duka, Milovan Mirosevic, and Chris Birchall to score goals.
Furthermore, the Crew's future opponents will still have to be wary of conceding corner kicks and free kicks in dangerous areas. Higuaín has served up two assists from dead balls and banged home two free kick goals.
Week 3 of the college soccer season has come and gone, here's how some notable Crew Youth alumni performed:
Akron Zips- (3-1-1) This Week: 1-0 W vs. Indiana, 3-1 L at Notre Dame
Akron opened up the weekend in South Bend at the Mike Berticelli Memorial Tournament with a 1-0 win over Indiana. Crew Youth product Eric Stevenson had the lone goal in the fixture. On Sunday, the Zips fell to hosts Notre Dame 3-1 for the team's first loss of the season. Stevenson, Wil Trapp, Andrew Souders, Thomas Schmitt, and Chad Barson have played in all five of Akron's games this season.
Louisville Cardinals- 21-2-0) This Week: 3-0 W vs. Army
In one match last week, the Cardinals took care of business on their home turf with a 3-0 win over Army. Crew Youth's Alex Obbey supplied the assist to Buck Tufty to open the scoring for UL.
Xavier Musketeers- (4-0-1) This week: 3-1 W at IUPUI, 3-1 W vs.UW Milwaukee
In a midweek match in Indianapolis, Matt Walker led the Musketeers to a 3-1 victory against IUPUI with a pair of goals. On Sunday, Walker's twin brother Will scored in Xavier's 3-1 win over UW Milwaukee at home will Matt and Rhodes Moore each supplied assists.
USF BULLS- (4-1-0) This Week: 1-0 L vs. South Carolina, 2-1 W vs. Iona
Crew Youth's Eric Osswald suffered his first defeat of the season in goal against South Carolina last Thursday, but helped his team to a 2-1 victory over Iona on Saturday.
UCLA Bruins- (3-1-1) This Week: 2-1 W vs. Tulsa, 2-1 W vs. UC Irvine
Captain Matt Wiet led the Bruins to a pair of victories in Week 3 with his solid play in central defense.
The last time the U.S. Men's National Team played at Crew Stadium was when the Yanks toppled rival Mexico on February 11, 2009 in 2010 World Cup Qualifying. Michael Bradley provided both goals in the 'dos a cero' 2-0 victory.
The only holdovers from that squad currently with the Stars & Stripes are Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey, and Jozy Altidore... and of course Frankie Hejduk, who started that match at right back, will be roaming around Crew Stadium on Tuesday night when the US hosts Jamaica.
Here are some highlights from the match from 2009: