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.
Tyson Wahl's first season with the Crew has been much like his first season as a pro with the Kansas City Wizards back in 2006.
Just as in his rookie season, Wahl's club was sold to new owners by the Hunt Sports Group midseason. Eerily, Brian Bliss has once again taken over a Interim Head Coach of Wahl's team in the middle of the season as he did in Kansas City in 2006.
With the change, Wahl has noticed a new energy in training the past two days.
"I think in general, whenever there is a coaching change, you have an increased level of intensity," the veteran defender said. "Everyone is fighting for new opportunities, believed opportunities. There is definitely a spike in effort and enthusiasm. I think it's something to capitalize on."
Given his prior experience with Bliss, Wahl feels the coaching change is good for the team's psyche.
"Blissy brings a lot of clarity and intensity. Overall, he brings a good mentality to the team," he said.
Wahl is in competition to return to the starting lineup in Bliss' first match as Interim Head Coach on Wednesday against the Houston Dynamo (7:30 p.m. ET / FOX Sports Ohio).
Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman hosted Crew President and General Manager Mark McCullers and Presidents Cup Tournament Director Dan Sullivan, along with other local politicians, on Portman Plaza outside of City Hall today to participate in a ceremonial flag raising to highlight the city’s opportunity to be showcased globally surrounding the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier between the U.S. and Mexico on September 10, as well as the Presidents Cup Tournament taking place at Muirfield Village Golf Club October 1-6.
Mayor Coleman deemed the event a “Massive” opportunity for our community, and that the “world will be watching Columbus” during these two high profile international sporting events within three weeks of each other. In addition to the U.S. Soccer Crest and Presidents Cup flags being raised just underneath the City of Columbus flag at City Hall, street names at Broad and High Streets are temporarily being renamed “US Soccer Street” and “Presidents Cup Way” to show the city’s support for these events, which will generate a significant economic impact for the region.
He also encouraged central Ohio residents to raise their U.S. flags and proudly display them at their homes and offices, along with wearing red, white and blue on the event days, to show citywide pride for our nation. Coleman even encouraged residents to get involved in the conversation on social media by using the #raiseyourflag hashtag.
Fresh off his first start in six matches, winger Ben Speas will not be in action on Saturday night when the Crew welcomes Seattle Sounders FC to Columbus. Instead, the 22-year-old will be in his hometown of Stow, Ohio, preparing to get married on Sunday.
"I'm excited to get married, obviously," Speas said Friday. "It's unfortunate that I miss the game, but best of luck to my teammates against Seattle. I'm sure we'll compete and hopefully bring home three points."
Speas will be back in Columbus in time for Wednesday's match against the Houston Dynamo, as he plans on taking a honeymoon in December.
When asked where he was planning on spending vacation with his new wife after the season ends, Speas simply responded, "Somewhere with a beach."
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.
Andy Gruenebaum, Chad Barson and Dominic Oduro joined 97.1 The Fan's Jonathan "T-Bone" Smith at Fourth Street Bar on Thursday night for Celebrity Bartending. The always-competitive Gruenebaum made the most tips on the evening, using signed apparel to convince patrons to fill his bucket with cash. All tips from the event went to the Crew Soccer Foundation, serving under-served youth in Central Ohio.
Before the Crew hosts Seattle Sounders FC in the only meeting between the two sides in 2013 on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET / FOX Sports Ohio), let's look back at last year's clash in Seattle.
Having never beaten the Sounders, the Crew silenced the 38,000-plus fans at CenturyLink field following Justin Meram's first-half diving header to give the Black & Gold an early advantage. Andy Gruenebaum and the Crew backline fended off an onslaught of attempts from the Seattle attack before Emilio Rentería added some insurance in the 76th minute to secure the victory with a looping shot from outside the box to beat 'keeper Bryan Meredith. Rentería's stunning strike wouldn't be needed, however, as Gruenebaum made six saves to lift the Crew to its first victory over former coach Sigi Schmid.