Crew get their lockdown strategy right
Call it a tale of two draws. If the Crew’s tie in their first road game, last month at FC Dallas, was considered a bad point after allowing a stoppage-time equalizer, then Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Seattle was a good outing.
Stunned by a Steve Zakuani goal in the fourth minute, Seattle made the Crew look slow and discombobulated in the back for the better part of the opening 45 minutes until Steven Lenhart salvaged the game with his header in extra time of the first half.
The Crew (2-0-2) are unbeaten after four games for just the second time in team history, a fact not lost on midfielder Brian Carroll.
“Given the fact they played amazing in the first half and we played really bad then turned it around at halftime and played solid in the second and had the momentum,” said Carroll, “especially in front of an atmosphere like this, it was a great point.”
The outcome was a familiar one for Columbus, echoing an earlier match this year. In the CONCACAF Champions League in March at Toluca, the Mexican side had its way with the Crew from the onset. But Columbus managed to take the lead just before the halftime whistle on a Guillermo Barros Schelotto penalty.
Likewise against Seattle, the Crew didn’t have a sniff of the goal until Lenhart took a service from Adam Moffat in the 41st minute and put his header over the target. Until that point, Seattle thwarted all of Columbus’ efforts and the midfield attack Crew coach Robert Warzycha has been desperately seeking was nowhere to be found.
“They came out with an incredible amount of energy,” Hejduk said. “I don’t think anybody could beat them the way they played in the first half.”
That changed dramatically on the last run of play before the break when right wing Eddie Gaven moved into the middle and fed a weighted ball to O’Rourke on a rare foray deep into enemy territory on the left side to set up the tying marker.
Carroll said Gaven’s presence in the middle helped the Crew settle down.
“Eddie moving inside and Moffat outside gave us a little different look, one that gave us a little more possession and for one reason or another we played more solid defensively,” he said. “That switch made things a little better.”
The goal was testament to that. As O’Rourke did against Toluca when his cross set up a goal by Schelotto, this time he found Lenhart in the middle of the box and the forward got his curly mop on the ball for his first goal.
“We probably made some mistakes in the first half and weren’t playing our best soccer,” Warzycha said. “That goal was huge.”
The difference this time was that Columbus found a way to bunker down and protect the result, something that was their undoing in Dallas. Unlike that helter-skelter finish, in which the Crew did a miserable job of killing the clock, they executed their defensive plan much better in Seattle.
“We learned to stay more compact as a group and not drop so much,” Carroll said. “In the Dallas game, we were all basically standing around the 18-yard line. In this game, from back to front, we were a little bit more organized and a little bit surer up the field. It made it more difficult to pull off a chance of a goal at the end of the game.”