Monday Hangover: Are the Crew for real?

Columbus find a way, but what's going on at Chicago?

 

What is it they say about great teams—they find a way to win?

Well, two weeks in a row now, the Columbus Crew have found
that way. Two games ago, they got a stoppage-time goal from Robbie Rogers to
beat the New England Revolution. Then this past Saturday, they pulled another
three-point rabbit from the hat as Guillermo Barros Schelotto pounded a
90th-minute penalty past Zach Thornton to earn the Crew a 1-0 win over Chivas
USA.

On the surface of things, teams like the Revs, who were
missing just about everyone for that trip to Columbus, and Chivas USA, who are
still trying to figure out how they want to play under new coach Martin
Vasquez, are not the kind that a championship contender should struggle with,
particularly at home. These are teams that the Crew should readily handle.

But then again, this is MLS. The league’s policy of parity
makes every game competitive, and what some teams lack in quality, they make up
for in quantity, as former Italy and MLS striker Giuseppe Galderisi used to
say.

The work rate of New England and the organization of Chivas
will always cause problems for a side like the Crew, who look to lean more
heavily on a combination of lightning attacks and overpowering set pieces. The
Crew should’ve scored twice against Chivas in the first half alone, but they
couldn’t find a way through.

In the end, though, they did break the seal. And this brings
me back to my opening salvo: Great teams find a way to win. Because make no
mistake about it, this Crew team is great.

Starting today, however, things get tricky. With the U.S.’s
World Cup camp opening, the Crew will be without two of their main cogs, Rogers
and Chad Marshall. Coincidently, the pair is the responsible for the victories
the past two weeks—Rogers scored the winner, Marshall drew the foul that led to
GBS’ penalty.

These two losses are not as detrimental to the side as the
loss of Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle is MLS’ other undefeated team, the LA
Galaxy. LD and Buddle are the LA attack. Rogers and Marshall are vital parts in
Robert Warzycha’s system, but if this Crew team has anything, it’s depth. There
are guys ready, willing and able to step in and fill the void. They may not be
the flank threat that Rogers is or the best center back in the league that
Marshall is, but they will more than suffice for the near future.

As ambiguous as it might sound, two weeks from now when the
Crew face the Galaxy, a great team will find a way to win.

*

Fire and Rain

Okay, I’m flummoxed. I have no idea what to make of this
Chicago Fire team.

At moments, they are a flowing, languid example of why it’s
called the beautiful game. At other times, they make even the guy who wrote Soccer for Dummies shake his head. For
one thing, and this hasn’t been mentioned much, Carlos de los Cobos has
tinkered with his lineup and formations constantly. Is Brian McBride a starter
or not? Is it better to go with one or two forwards on the road?

Some of this is new-coach syndrome. But some of it seems to be
avoidance. At some point, DLC should at least try McBride and Collins John up
top together again now that John has some time with the team under his belt.

Lastly, goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra needs to find some
consistency. Like Philadelphia’s Chris Seitz, he is capable of both the sublime
and the subpar. I don’t want to blame him outright, but I feel like he could’ve
done better on both goals against Kansas City.

*

A Win’s a Win’s a Win

What’s the difference between a 1-0 win on the road over
Eastern Conference cellar-dwellers D.C. United and a 1-0 win on the road over
East leaders the New York Red Bulls? For the winners, in this case, the
Colorado Rapids and the Seattle Sounders, I’d say nothing.

Both Colorado and Seattle needed some momentum, some
positivity. And although it wasn’t pretty on either side’s part, each got the
job done.

Mehdi Ballouchy remains a player “with potential,” and on
nights like Saturday he shows why. Too bad he can’t do that every Saturday.

All the debates about why Sigi Schmid benched Fredy Montero
should be done now. He benched him because he hasn’t played well this year.
Whether Schmid did it to send a message or simply because he needed a more
effective option on the field, it worked. End of of debate.

*

A Player I Like

Bobby Burling. San Jose Earthquakes defender is quietly
asserting himself as a set-piece threat a la Columbus’ Marshall. Keep an eye on
him.

*

Camp Bradley

The U.S. national team begins training on Monday in Princeton,
New Jersey. MLSsoccer.com will be at camp all week, covering everything from
top to bottom. Most interesting questions, of course: Buddle or Gomez? Marshall
or Goodson? Who pairs with Michael Bradley? Is Gooch ready? Is Demerit’s eye
problem a, well, problem? Where does Bocanegra play?

All these questions have me nervous. So does the sudden
confidence that the U.S. will get a result against England. Even some
Englishmen I know are saying this. Ballyhoo, I say. Mind games. Even the fans
need to play them now.