WE WANT MORE, WE WANT MORE
Winners of three in a row and four of its last five, the Crew enters the weekend hungry for more points with three games remaining ... with a bye weekend (Oct. 12) approaching, the Black & Gold need to secure key points against Sporting KC ... following the bye weekend, the Crew opens a home-and-home series with New England to finish the regular season ... in a 12-game stretch from June 15 against Montreal through August 31 against Seattle, the Crew secured four wins for a total of 12 points, or an average of one point per game ... conversely, in this current stretch of five games under Interim Head Coach Brian Bliss, the Crew also has four wins (12 points), but is averaging 2.4 points per game.
A SEPTEMBER TO REMEMBER
It was a whirlwind first month for Interim Head Coach Brian Bliss, taking over on September 2 before coaching his first match two days later in the 2-0 win over Houston on September 4 at Crew Stadium ... the winds of change brought the Crew success in September as the team registered 11 goals and 11 assists, marking the first time since 1998 that the team had posted 10 or more goals or 10 or more assists in the month of September ... the victories last month also marked the first four-win September for the Crew since 2004 ... last October, the Crew went 1-1-1 and just missed the 2012 postseason, falling a point behind Houston for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
ANOTHER DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCE
Certainly the Crew would have had a tough time securing four wins in five matches without a stretch of strong defensive performances ... over the last five matches, the club has recorded two shutouts and allowed a single goal to the then-Eastern Conference-leading Montreal Impact ... the club’s only loss in that stretch allowed three goals to Sporting KC on September 7 ... despite that three-goal match, the Black & Gold backline has allowed an average of just 1.2 goals per game under Interim Head Coach Brian Bliss.
With a 3-0 win over Chicago last weekend, the Black & Gold are now two goals shy of recording their 800th regular-season goal. Only four other teams in MLS have recorded 800 or more regular-season tallies, including Sunday’s opponent, FC Dallas (815). New York has recorded 806, while D.C. United (863) trails only LA (875) on the elite list.
In 40 regular-season games with the Crew, Federico Higuain has now recorded 15 goals and 15 assists, including seven penalty kick goals (six in 2013), as well as five game-winning assists (three in 2013) and five game-winning goals (three in 2013).
Federico Higuain is 6-for-8 from the penalty spot this season and is tied for second in MLS history with Carlos Ruiz (2003) and Preki (1996) for most penalty attempts in a single season, per MLS. Higuain is one attempt shy of matching Jaime Moreno’s nine attempts in 2005, although Moreno went 9-for-9 that season. The Crew’s nine penalty kick attempts this season (eight for Higuain, one for Ryan Finley) is one attempt shy of tying a four-way lead for most team attempts in a single-season (10), trailing: Dallas (1997), Chicago (2000), MetroStars (2000) and D.C. United (2011).
250TH APPEARANCE FOR CHAD
Chad Marshall’s next appearance will be his 250th career regular-season appearance, all with the Black & Gold ... the defender is set to become the club’s first player to reach the 250-appearance milestone in the regular season ... Marshall, who also leads the club’s regular-season lists for all-time starts (246) and minutes played (21,860), made his first career appearance on April 17, 2004 in a start at Kansas City ... earlier this season, Marshall became the first Crew player to log 20,000 minutes for the Crew.
SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST
Winner of three of its last four matches dating back to the beginning of the Brian Bliss era, the Crew has made a strong push for the postseason ... included in the recent stretch is the club’s current two-match winning streak, marking the second time in two months that the club has earned back-to-back wins ... the three wins in four matches also represent the first time all season that the club has won three games in a single month in 2013.
ANOTHER DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCE
Certainly the Crew would have had a tough time securing three wins in four matches without a stretch of strong defensive performances ... over the last four matches, the club has recorded two shutouts and allowed a single goal to the then-Eastern Conference-leading Montreal Impact ... the club’s only loss in that stretch allowed three goals ... despite that three-goal match, the Black & Gold backline has allowed an average of just one goal per game in the month of September.
GOOD NEWS FOR GRUENEBAUM
After missing nine matches with left shoulder weakness, there is positive news on the injury front for Andy Gruenebaum ... Gruenebaum was removed this week from the club’s injury report after being upgraded to “questionable” last week ... Gruenebaum started the first 20 matches of 2013 and Matt Lampson made his 10th overall start and ninth consecutive go in net in Gruenebaum’s place last Saturday ... Lampson has five shutouts this season, while Gruenebaum has four cleansheets to his name.
Saturday’s match marks the 50th regular-season meeting between the Crew and the Fire dating back to 1998. The Crew has secured points in 25 of those meetings, posting a 12-24-13 record. Interim Head Coach Brian Bliss did not face the Fire when with the Wizards as a player in 1998 but did see Chicago in his previous interim role with Kansas City in 2006, falling to the Fire in the lone meeting.
While all eyes in Crew Stadium were on witnessing a sold-out soccer crowd in Columbus on September 10, Central Ohio tuned in to the match in droves from its homes. Watching the 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier, Columbus was the highest-rated market in the country for this game (5.1 rating) with Miami-Ft. Lauderdale was second with a 3.3 share. Overall, the match was the second-most viewed USMNT qualifier in ESPN history (2,243,000 viewers), and combined with the UniMas Spanish-language broad- cast the match drew a combined audience of more than 7 million viewers – second only to the March 26, 2013 match between the USMNT and Mexico at Azteca.
Federico Higuain now leads the team with three game-winning assists in 2013. His seventh and eighth assists of the season were crucial, providing the game-tying and game-winning assists in a must-win affair in Montreal. In 39 career games for the Crew, Higuain has recorded 14 goals and 15 assists, with five game-winning goals and five game-winning assists.
END OF A TREND
Last Saturday’s 2-1 victory snapped a recent trend of scorelines that either helped or plagued the Black & Gold for a six-week span ... from August 10 through September 7, the Crew played to six shutout results ... on August 10 and August 17, the Black & Gold kept the Red Bulls and Toronto FC off of the scoreboard respectively in 2-0 wins ... then, a two-match losing streak saw a reversal of goal-scoring fortune as the Crew was shut-out 4-0 on August 24 at Real Salt Lake and a 1-0 loss to Seattle on August 31 ... the streak continued as the Crew defeated Houston, 2-0, on September 4 before a 3-0 defeat at Sporting KC on September 7 ... that trend seemed likely to continue with the Impact up 1-0 last Saturday before a pair of second-half goals gave the Crew a 2-1 win.
COMEBACK KIDS ...
The Black & Gold’s 2-1 win over Eastern Conference-leading Montreal did more than just put the Crew back in the hunt for playoff contention ... the win accomplished something the club had been unable to do all season: win after its opponent scored the match’s opening goal ... prior to last Saturday, the Crew was 0-11-3 in 2013 after conceding the opening strike, giving the Crew its first comeback win of 2013.
... AND A LITTLE LATE-GAME MAGIC
Dominic Oduro’s game-winning goal in the 78th minute on Saturday at Montreal sealed a 2-1 win for the Black & Gold and also provided some much needed late-game magic for the Crew ... Oduro’s goal was the team’s first game-winning or game-tying goal after the 75th minute in 2013 ... in a welcomed change with respect to goals of that nature in the final 15 minutes, the Crew had previously allowed six game-winning goals against and three game-tying goals against already in 2013.
SOMETHING IN THE HALFTIME SPEECH
Whatever Interim Head Coach Brian Bliss said in the halftime locker room in Montreal last Saturday clearly worked ... with his club down 1-0 to the Eastern Conference-leading Impact, Bliss’ Crew scored a pair of goals in the second 45 to give the Crew a 2-1 win ... the victory was the Crew’s first of the season when trailing at halftime ... previously, the club was 0-8-2 overall when trailing at half, including a frustrating 0-6-0 record when trailing after the first 45 minutes on the road.
THE FIGHT FOR THE POSTSEASON
With five matches remaining, the Crew remains in the hunt for the playoffs this year with hopes to return to postseason play after an absence in 2012 ... of the five remaining matches, four of the tilts are against Eastern Conference opponents, including a crucial home-and-home series with New England to wrap-up the year ... the club’s lone Western Conference match is next Sunday at FC Dallas.
ANOTHER TEST AGAINST EASTERN CONFERENCE-LEADING IMPACT ...
Saturday’s match is the third meeting between the two teams this year and a third test against an Impact side that has sat atop the Eastern Conference ahead of both tilts in 2013 ... the Crew has secured crucial points against the Impact and will look to do the same on Saturday against the current conference leaders with the Black & Gold five points out of the fifth-place spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
... AND A CHANCE TO TAKE A REGULAR-SEASON SERIES
A win in Montreal would also mark the Crew’s third regular-season series victory in 2013 ... with a 2-0 win over Toronto on August 17, the Crew secured its second regular-season series victory following a pair of victories against D.C. United (2-0-0): a March 23 win at RFK Stadium (2-1) and a 3-0 win on April 27 at Crew Stadium.
A FINAL TRIP NORTH OF THE BORDER
Saturday’s trip to Montreal is the Crew’s fifth and final trip to Canada in 2013 and 14th overall regular-season match north of the border ... although the Black & Gold fell to Toronto on July 27, the Crew has secured points in 10 of the 13 previous meetings up North and is 4-3-6 in those Canadian-hosted matches ... Columbus is 3-1-5 in nine matches at Toronto FC, has a 1-1-0 record at Vancouver and the Crew’s 1-1 draw at Montreal on April 13 improved the Crew’s record at Montreal to 0-1-1 ... additional Ohio ties to Canada include rookie defender Drew Beckie who was born in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Despite playing in shutouts in the last six matches (three shutout wins, three shutout losses) dating back to August 10, the Crew does have a bit of history on its side headed into Montreal this weekend looking for its first victory at Stade Saputo. In the two previous all-time meetings at Stade Saputo in which the Crew has gone 0-1-1, the Black & Gold have found the back of the net once each time, giving the visitors a chance to perhaps make it shutouts in the last seven matches by adding another cleansheet win.
Saturday’s match will also be another first for Brian Bliss as his side heads north of the border. When Bliss took over as Interim Head Coach of Kansas City in 2006, MLS had yet to introduce a Canadian-based club into the League. Toronto joined the next year in 2007 and Vancouver (2011) and Montreal (2012) have followed suit, meaning this week’s clash will be Bliss’ first match coached against a Canadian opponent in MLS as well as first trip to Canada as Crew boss.
Tuesday night’s U.S. Men’s National Team win in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Mexico was among the top Crew Stadium soccer attendances of all time. The announced attendance of 24,584 was the fourth largest attendance for all Crew Stadium soccer matches and third largest U.S. Men’s National team attendances held at the home of the Black & Gold. The crowd helped give the Americans the crucial qualifying victory in a historic fourth “Dos a Cero” win against rival Mexico.
CREW OPENS BRIAN BLISS ERA WITH A WIN
Less than two days after being appointed Interim Head Coach, Brian Bliss led the Crew to a 2-0 victory on Wednesday night in his first match as Crew boss on the sidelines ... said Bliss postgame, “You’re always happy and you’re always sad when you win and you lose -- technical director or coach. Obviously when you’re coaching you have a little bit more invested in the game for the 90 minutes than when you do when you’re sitting up in the box as a Technical Director. But the losses and the wins hurt and feel as good in both positions but you have a little more invested in it and little less in the voice box.”
FINISHING A BUSY STRETCH
The Black & Gold complete a stretch of three matches in eight days as the Crew travels to Kansas City for Saturday’s tilt ... previously in this stretch, the Crew lost 1-0 to Seattle on August 31 before Wednesday night’s 2-0 victory over Houston its final midweek match of 2013.
SHUTOUTS FOR, AGAINST A TREND IN LAST FIVE TILTS
Since a 3-1 loss at Houston on August 3, the Crew has played five consecutive matches in which one team was shut-out ... in addition to Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Houston, on August 10 and August 17, the Black & Gold kept the Red Bulls and Toronto FC off of the scoreboard respectively in 2-0 wins ... following the win over the Reds, the Crew suffered a two-match losing streak which saw a reversal of goal-scoring fortune as the Crew was shut-out 4-0 on August 24 at Real Salt Lake and a 1-0 loss to Seattle on August 31.
Wednesday night was a career night for Crew forward Ryan Finley, who recorded his first career goal and assist in just his second start. Finley had been previously robbed of a goal in the team’s meeting with Houston on August 3 when a shot was ruled an own goal, but Finley would not be denied on Wednesday night when the Dynamo were in Columbus. Finley became the fourth Crew player this year to record their first MLS goal, joining Ben Speas, Glauber and Matias Sanchez.
For the second time this season, midfielder/defender Kevan George has been called-up for international duty with Trinidad & Tobago ahead of an international tournament – the OSN Cup – held September 5-9 in Saudi Arabia. George previously made three starts in the 2012 Olympic Qualifying run with Trinidad & Tobago’s Under-23 squad. Two also represents the number of Crew matches he’ll miss in total as he’ll be unavailable Saturday at KC after missing Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Houston.
Eight of the team’s nine victories this season have resulted in shutout performances for the Crew backline. In fact, the last seven Crew victories have been shutout performances including recent wins against Portland (1-0) on July 7, New York (2-0) on August 10, Toronto FC (2-0) on August 17 and Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Houston. The lone victory that came with an opponent goal was March 23 in a 2-1 win at D.C. United.
Plenty of two-goal performances have led to strong results for the Crew this year. The Crew is now unbeaten (4-0-0) this season at home when scoring two goals in a match. Away from Crew Stadium, the Black & Gold are 1-1-1 when scoring two goals.
A HOMEGROWN PLAYER RECORD FOR BLACK & GOLD
Chad Barson, Matt Lampson, Ben Speas and Wil Trapp set a Black & Gold record on August 24 against Real Salt Lake by merely being a part of Head Coach Robert Warzycha’s starting lineup ... the quartet of Homegrown Players marked the first time in Crew history that four Homegrowns started a match for the club ... the addition of Ben Speas to the starting lineup trumped a previously set record of three Homegrown Players on July 7 against Portland.
A DIFFERENT CENTRAL MIDFIELD LOOK
With Bernardo Anor out with right hamstring tightness, Head Coach Robert Warzycha made alterations to his central midfield lineup last match at Real Salt Lake ... after using Anor in a central attacking midfielder role on August 10 and August 17, Warzycha placed Danny O’Rourke alongside Wil Trapp ... the start for O’Rourke was his first in central midfield since June 29 at Sporting KC ... O’Rourke made five con- secutive starts from July 4-August 3 at centerback before missing the match against New York (August 10) as a pre-game scratch with back problems ... he returned to action with a substitute appearance in the midfield against Toronto (August 17).
A CHANCE FOR OTHERS TO STEP UP IN THE CAPTAIN’S ABSENCE ...
With Federico Higuain out for two matches, the Crew will rely on other players to step in to fill the void left by the club captain ... should rookie Ryan Finley get the nod, the forward would be ready for his first MLS start following a hat-trick performance in Tuesday’s Reserve League match in a 3-1 win over FC Dallas ... other options include bringing Dominic Oduro back up top after a recent stretch of matches on the right wing ... of course, the club could also leave Jairo Arrieta up front and employ another midfielder in the attack ... with plenty of options for Head Coach Robert Warzcyha, the Crew looks to find its first goal not scored by Higuain since July 27 -- a Dominic Oduro tally at Toronto.