Sirk’s Notebook

Crew 2, Red Bulls 0

William Hesmer with a save against NY

Photo Credit: 
Jamie Sabau (Getty Images)

As expected at Crew Stadium on Saturday night, one team played as if it were hell bent on making a good first impression on New York Red Bulls signing Thierry Henry. Unfortunately for New York, that team was not the Red Bulls. It was the Columbus Crew that came out firing on all cylinders, easily disposing of the Red Bulls with a 2-0 victory in a game that was played with Henry watching and first place in the Eastern Conference on the line.

The Crew controlled the game from the opening whistle. Columbus won 50/50 balls, won second balls, and won any type of ball that was there to be won. The Crew controlled possession, dominated the center of the park, created numerous offensive chances, and stifled New York’s dangerous attacking players. The ease of the Crew’s triumph left New York head coach Hans Backe red-faced, both out of fury and embarrassment.

“Absolute disaster!” he bellowed by way of an opening statement in the post-game press conference. “I've never seen this team perform like this. It was a walk in the park for Columbus. That's the whole game, in a way.

“To go from a good performance last Saturday to such a drop in seven days is normally not possible,” he said. “It’s not physically possible to do it. I don't know. We just looked paralyzed, passive, and I don't know. Sometimes these games happen, but still, I'm really, really disappointed with this performance. I will say that for the first time in many, many years, I went crazy at half time. I was close to getting injured myself.”

Crew coach Robert Warzycha thought it would be a disservice to overlook his own players’ roles in New York’s poor performance.

“I think that was our plan – to pass the ball and not let them play,” Warzycha said. “So I'm not surprised because the way we play, I think we didn't allow them to play. We pressured them pretty high, and we were winning the middle of the field. Chad and Iro and everybody in the back were good. That's the way we were trying to play, and that's why it was difficult for them to play.”

Danny O’Rourke, who got the start at left back for the Crew, felt that both coaches were right, judging by his comments.

“We came out strong,” he said. “We knew that we’re fighting for that top spot and they could have switched places with us with a win, so we knew we had to come out strong despite playing a million games in three weeks. But to be honest, I didn’t think New York would come out like that. They didn’t have a game midweek. I don’t know what it was. Sometimes a team doesn’t play well, but it didn’t even seem like they wanted to play. Despite all that, we know they are a scary team. Any time Angel is on the field, he’s dangerous. Richards, Kandji…we knew we couldn’t let up because they could turn it on at any moment. But I don’t know. The bottom line is that we performed well and got the victory.”

Yes, that was the bottom line. But let’s hear the bottom line in Guille-speak, just for added emphasis.

“We find the goal, and they never have the possibility for a score, I think,” Schelotto said. “We controlled the game for 90 minutes, so it was very good.”

RENTERIA STRIKES / DANCES AGAIN

The Crew took a 1-0 lead in the 20th minute on Emilio Renteria’s third goal of the season. The score was the result of the Crew’s fluid transition play. Brian Carroll dispossessed Juan Pablo Angel in the center circle, knocking the ball to Adam Moffat in the process. The Scot quickly played forward to Schelotto, whose perfectly-weighted pass found Renteria’s run in full stride. New York goalkeeper Bouna Condoul got his fingertips on the muscular Venezulan’s powerful shot, but it wasn’t enough to stop the ball from hitting the back of the net.

“I am happy,” Renteria said through an interpreter after the game. “I feel good. I am really happy I scored the goal because I think I have been playing well in the games. It seems like I keep scoring goals against New York, so we need to keep playing them.”

 Schelotto credited Renteria with showing him where he wanted service, which made the goal possible.

“I couldn’t find him, but he show me the pass for the goal, for example,” Schelotto said. “So not only my pass, but he show me the pass. That is very good thing for me because I know where I need have to put the ball.”

Renteria said it was actually the other way around.

“He’s a really good guy and knows where to put the ball,” he said. “He actually asked me where I wanted the ball, and he’s an excellent player at passing the ball up front.”

The Crew’s passing up front consisted of quick passes on the ground, which played directly to Schelotto’s strengths.

“It is the best thing for us, when we play short and find everyone in the plays in the space,” Schelotto said. “I think today we play and find everyone all the time. We try against Kansas but couldn’t do it, but sometimes, like today, is ‘everything OK.’”

After latching on to one of those passes into space and putting the Crew ahead, Renteria then unveiled another crowd pleasing goal dance.

“I like to dance,” Renteria said. “It’s my form of enjoyment.”

BRIAN FREAKIN’ CARROLL

Man of the Match honors surely had to go to Brian Carroll, who gave the Crew a vintage Brian Carroll performance and then some. Carroll controlled the center of the field in the first half, consistently breaking up New York’s attacks and then quickly transitioning play in the other direction. His dirty work led to the Crew’s first goal, and it was a standout first half in terms of doing all of the little things that make Brian Carroll so valuable, if somewhat overlooked.

In the second half, he overcame the overlooked part. In the 47th minute, he unleashed a 25-yard, left-footed half-volley into the far side netting to give the Crew a 2-0 lead. It was a stunner of a goal. Carroll has scored two goals in his Crew career. The first, in 2008, won Goal of the Week honors. This one may very well do the same.

“I would certainly like more quantity, but I will take the quality,” Carroll said of his goal-scoring abilities. “I usually don’t win those things (GOTW honors), but last time I was fortunate enough to win it after a good long-range goal, so we’ll see what happens with the voting,”

O’Rourke said not to get too caught up in the BC goal-scoring hysteria.

“I think BC was trying to cross it to the far post and it just went in,” he said. “Just kidding. It was brilliant. I’m not one to usually celebrate goals. I’m superstitious about that, but for that goal, you kinda have no choice. We were proud of him.”

The players seem to get a kick out of Carroll’s rare turn in the spotlight. They know more than anyone that he’s usually the unsung hero.

“BC is Mr. Consistent,” O’Rourke said. “When he’s on top of his game, he’s cleaning stuff up, breaking plays up, he plays smart, and you know what you’re going to get out of him. And then when he hits a shot like that, it just adds to it. It speaks for itself that he’s won four Supporters’ Shields in a row. That’s not a coincidence.”

Carroll left the game in the 57th minute with a rolled ankle, which he confidently claimed was something that a few good ice baths would fix.

FIRST PLACE BATTLES

The Crew and Red Bulls had first place at stake in each of their battles this year. In May, the second-place Crew went on the road and took over the top spot with a 3-1 victory. This time, the roles were reversed, as second-place New York could have taken over first place with a victory. Instead, the Crew triumphed 2-0, meaning they outscored New York 5-1 in their two big showdowns.

“You have to win the important games,” Warzycha said. “This game was very important for us, and the game in New York was also important because we were in second place. But what I'm happy about today was the composure. Everybody seemed like they knew what to do, where to go, defensively and offensively. So that was very, very good. I'm very pleased.”

HUMBLE HENRY

Thierry Henry is being hailed as the second biggest signing in MLS history behind David Beckham, but Henry demanded no star treatment on his trip to Columbus. After flying commercial, he arrived at the stadium in a yellow taxi cab, with nary a limousine, town car, or Escalade in sight. He freely wandered the stadium before the game without a phalanx of bodyguards and handlers. A solitary Columbus police officer was assigned to keep an eye on him from a reasonable distance. Henry walked the field, signing autograph after autograph, and cheerfully submitted himself to a battery of one-on-one interviews, ranging from national outlets like Fox Soccer Channel to smaller independent sites like MassiveReport.com. He denied no requests.

During the game, Henry watched from a suite, but took time out to visit with Dwight Burgess and Bill McDermott in the Crew’s TV booth at halftime for yet another interview. He signed more autographs for fans. And according to those sitting near his suite, he even gave Guillermo Barros Schelotto a respectful round of applause when he was subbed out of the game.

Well after the game had ended, Schelotto and Henry met in the tunnel, where they had a lengthy conversation. Since Henry speaks Spanish, there was no need for him to decipher awesome Gullie-isms in English. His loss.

Anyway, since I neither speak Spanish nor was so rude as to barge into their conversation, I was curious as to what they were talking about. It’s at times like this that I am thankful for Duncan Oughton, who is an expert at these sorts of things. I asked Oughton to describe their conversation.

“Well, I think Guille went up to him and said, ‘What happened to France at the World Cup?’” Oughton said. “And then I think Henry immediately came back with, ‘What happened to Argentina against Germany at the World Cup?’ That ought to spark at least a 10-minute conversation. Not every team can go undefeated like New Zealand.”

I told Duncan that the two men seemed to be speaking on warm and friendly terms, so the World Cup might not have been the topic.

“In that case,” Oughton said, “they were probably talking about finances. Thierry was probably asking Guillermo for the best way to spend bucket loads of money in America. There is only one player on our team qualified to speak about that, and that’s Guillermo, so Thierry spoke to the right man. I’m surprised it went only 10 minutes.”

ON BEING SCOTT DEBOLT

In the tunnel before the game, I jokingly asked Crew V.P. of Operations Scott DeBolt if he would be escorting Henry to his suite as his personal bodyguard. DeBolt, who is in constant contact with the entire stadium staff via multiple walkie-talkies, looked horrified.

“Are you kidding me?” he said. “We wouldn’t even be able to get through the crowd because people would be asking me questions every few feet. There would probably be more people trying to get at me than autograph seekers trying to get at him. I’m staying down here where it’s safe.”

ON BROKEN BEAKS AND SHREDDED FOREHEADS
 
On Wednesday night, brothers-in-law Adam Moffat and Steven Lenhart conked heads while attempting to head the same ball into the net in stoppage time of the Crew’s 1-0 loss to Kansas City. Lenhart took the worst of it. He suffered a broken nose and was unable to play on Saturday night. He was seen wandering around, wearing the Scarecrow’s straw hat to conceal the damage.

When it comes to dealing with broken beaks, there is no greater expert than Duncan Oughton, whose prodigious schnozz has been cracked and battered many times through the years. Earlier in his career, he attempted to play while wearing one of those Hannibal Lecter masks, which resulted in nothing more than another broken nose. I asked Oughton if he had shared any advice with Lenhart.

“I have told him a few things,” Oughton revealed. “I have told him that the mask is no good because it hits your nose on the side and breaks it worse. And my other advice was to stay away from his brother-in-law. Obviously something is really wrong in that family. The poor Lenharts. Hasn’t William Wallace taken enough from these people? He’s swum to America and taken their daughter, he’s taken out their son’s nose…men, women, children…he takes whatever he wants.”

I noted that Duncan had never opted to wear a straw hat during his various nose breakings, and wondered if maybe that’s something Steve is teaching him.

“I think Steve is just trying to cover up his nose, whereas I wore mine proudly,” Oughton said. “But never mind Steve, let’s look at THIS wound, shall we? That’s where Steve’s nose poked him in the head!”

Oughton then pointed to a centimeter long laceration in the middle of Moffat’s forehead.

“That’s impressive, to do that with a nose,” Moffat said, seemingly admitting that it didn’t look like much without context.

I asked both of them what Moffat’s forehead would have looked like if it had collided with Oughton’s nose on that play.

“He wouldn’t have a head left!” Oughton said.

“Nah, I’d just have a big indentation,” Moffat said.

“Yeah,” Oughton agreed, coming around to Moffat’s version. “He’d have a third eye socket. He could be a Cyclops if he closed his two eyes and left the big one up top.”

MR. NUMBERS NERD: UNITED OPEN CUP HOMESTAND EDITION

IMPORTANT UPDATE: The original version of this section stated that if D.C. United hosted the Crew in the 2010 U.S. Open Cup semifinal, it would mark 21 consecutive Open Cup home games for United. This information was obtained from page 143 of the 2010 D.C. United media guide, which shows that DCU’s last Open Cup road game was in October of 2003.

It has been brought to my attention by Craig Merz, my esteemed colleague who had consulted the 2009 DCU media guide, that page 143 of the 2010 DCU media guide is incorrect. United’s USOC games against Richmond in 2004 and 2005 were on the road, as was the 2006 match against Chicago. Further, United played at Harrisburg in 2007 in a game that was not even listed on page 143 of the 2010 guide.

It is worth noting that in the historical season-by-season recaps in the 2010 DCU media guide, all of these games are listed correctly. It is only when copied to the separate USOC historical results listing on page 143 that these errors occurred. I apologize for not double-checking United’s seemingly handy list against another source. Sometimes I forget that media guides aren’t always as infallible as those who work so hard on them intend for them to be. I’ve made plenty of honest mistakes myself, and I know from talking to the Crew’s PR staff over the years that working on the media guide will make you go cross-eyed after awhile, so I’m not piling on DCU here. And the bottom line is that I am ultimately responsible for what I write. I should have double-checked the information myself.

The funny thing is, even after these corrections, the basic premise still holds true. Instead of the 21st consecutive Open Cup home game for DCU, the 2010 semifinal against Columbus will be the 15th consecutive Open Cup home game, counting MLS play-ins. Sure, 15 isn’t as crazy as 21…but both numbers are well past the threshold for “are you freakin’ kiddin’ me?”

Since last playing a U.S. Open Cup game on the road in 2007 at Harrisburg, United has hosted the following teams:

2008: Rochester, Chicago, New England, Charleston
2009: Dallas, New York, Ocean City, Harrisburg, Rochester, Seattle
2010: Dallas, Salt Lake, Richmond, Harrisburg, Columbus (semifinal on 9/1)

OUGHTON’S INTRO-DUNC-TIONS: 2010 EDITION

It’s now time for one of my favorite traditions. Back in 2006, when the Crew’s roster had almost completely turned over, fans were struggling to get to know all of the new faces. Or at least I was. So I enlisted the help of Duncan Oughton to tell us more about those players. “Oughton’s Intro-Dunc-tions” were born. This year marks the fifth annual Intro-Dunc-tion, where the Crew’s longest tenured veteran tells us all about the new guys after getting to know them for a few months. As always, we must stress that the information provided is courtesy of Duncan Oughton, and that these educational tidbits are not to be presumed to be the views of the Columbus Crew, Major League Soccer, or objective reality.

This year, we have four newcomers to intro-Dunc, plus we have a bonus re-intro-Dunc-tion of Emilio Renteria, since he had barely been with the team at the time of last year’s intro-Dunc-tions.

So without further ado, heeeeeeeeere’s Duncan!

(All text is Duncan’s stream of consciousness, except for my notes or follow-up questions, which are in parentheses.)

#11 DILLY DUKA

“Doesn’t the name say enough? Dilly? That’s a name? I think it’s short for Dilaver, and he claims to be some sort of foreigner, but he is 100 percent Jersey. He’s got the fist pump, and he does bicep curls in the hope of landing a cameo on that Jersey Shore show.

“What fans may not know about Dilly is that he is the taxi cab driver for a lot of the younger players. Driving a taxi is very Jersey, so when he’s not playing soccer, he plays the part of an Albanian cab driver. I haven’t looked to see if he’s installed a meter on his dashboard, but he should definitely install a meter. I think most of the guys chip in some for gas, except for maybe a young Jamaican passenger, so installing a meter would ensure that his taxi business collects the full fare.”

(Does Dilly drive around town picking up strangers in his taxi during his free time?)

“I don’t know that Dilly’s taxi drives around town and picks up strangers during his free time, unless by ‘strangers’ you mean ‘women.’  I believe in that case, his taxi light is always on.

“On the field, Dilly is a skillful and talented player who, in his youth, is coming to grips with battling for a spot on a deep and talented team. But he is learning and he is working hard toward that goal of earning a spot.”

#29 SHAUN FRANCIS

“Fran-o, as he is known, is a very sweet and kindhearted man, but we are waiting for that Caribbean side to come out. By that, I am talking about random bone-crunching tackles like Ansil Elcock, or maybe showing us his Jeff Cunningham crazy side. For now, it’s all sweetness and kindness, but we are on alert.

“Shaun has told us a story about how, back in Jamaica, he used to have cats and his neighbor had a dog. Every time Shaun’s cats had kittens, the dog would come over and eat the orange kittens. This dog would leave all of the other kittens alone, but would eat the orange ones. Growing up, Shaun never had an orange kitten for more than a couple of weeks. Nobody can explain it, but that’s the story of Shaun and his neighbor’s ginger-hating dog.

“As a player, I think Fran-o wants to get traded to New York. How else do you explain that when he got subbed in at left back on Saturday, he ran to New York’s end of the field like he was going to swap jerseys with their left back? We were stunned, but maybe he is secretly fed up and wanted to crunch somebody on our team. Maybe he was sick of Frankie’s overlaps and wanted to crunch him. Officially, we’re going to put it down to nerves because it was his first MLS appearance, but it’s something we’re going to keep an eye on.”

#13 LEANDRE GRIFFIT

“Frenchy is a good man who is just so obviously Euro in his attire. Not only does he carry a man bag, but he has a sensational array of man bags. He has a different man bag for each and every one of his Euro outfits.

“Frenchy was very excited when Thierry Henry came to Columbus. I think the U.S. and France have butted heads some, so he was excited to have a fellow Frenchy to talk with. That made him smile. He was all pearly whites.”

(How are French-Kiwi relations?)

“Well, we have a connection because about 25 years ago, the French sank a ship called the Rainbow Warrior. They sank it while it was in port at Auckland. I wouldn’t say that I am holding a grudge for the Rainbow Warrior, and Frenchy is a very nice guy, but there might be some retribution anyway.”

(NOTE: The Rainbow Warrior was NOT, as I assumed from its moniker, the top ship in the New Zealand Navy. Rather, it was a Greenpeace ship used to harass and deter underwater nuclear testing.)

“As for Frenchy the player, his play is just like his manner of dress – very Euro. He’s got good feet and deft, creative touches. Once he gets accustomed to MLS, I think he will be a very good acquisition.”

#28 OTHANIEL YANEZ

“He is commonly known as ‘O.T.’ Why O.T. when his initials are O.Y.? That is a good question that I can’t answer. He brought the nickname with him. Maybe he is ‘O.T.’ because he is the opposite of that ‘T.O.’ guy.  He is always smiling and his teammates love to be around him. We got him from Brian Maisonneuve (and the University of Louisville), so you know if Mais recommends somebody, they are going to have great character. If I could sum up O.T.’s outlook on life, it would be that if life gives you lemons, make lemonade, sell it at a lemonade stand, and then use the money to buy beer. That’s the type of positive outlook he has. He can turn lemons into beer.

“O.T. just bought himself a car, so he is now out of the Dilly Duka taxi service. He might be opening a competing taxi company, for all I know.”

(Is he another entrepreneur along the lines of Andy Grunebaum and his locker room DVD rental business, Rabbi Rentals?)

“Ah, Rabbi Rentals. I have not rented a DVD from that operation since the time they charged me a late fee when I had possession of the DVD for just five minutes. Unless it was a four minute DVD, I could not have watched the DVD without Andy adding this so-called late fee, which was conveniently identical to the amount of money that he owed me at the time. Because of those shoddy business practices, I have turned elsewhere for my DVD rental needs.

“Anyway, on and off the field, O.T. is a hard worker, a good kid, and is the first to help with anything. He’s always giving his best to help the team.”

#20 EMILIO RENTERIA (revisted)

“I know we talked about Emilio last year, but he had barely been here and didn’t know any English. Having gotten the chance to know Emilio more since then, I can tell you that his English has improved immensely. In the past year, his English has extended to include the following phrase: ‘Hey girl, can I get your number?’ As you can see, he’s made tremendous progress. He can say that phrase flawlessly, as I think he’s spent the bulk of his free time practicing it.

“Emilio has been perfecting his dance moves more than his English. I think he likes dancing in front of the New York guys, because those are the two games where scored and then danced afterward. His dance is really two parts. He does a Venezuelan snake dance with his arms, and then he does the Riverdance with his feet.

“Here’s an interesting Renteria fact—he knows more about what’s going on than the rest of the team does. During team meetings, either Bobby or Lapper will be talking, and then Ricky will translate in Espanol for Emilio, and Emilio will nod his head as he takes it all in. The problem is that the rest of us can’t hear Bobby or Lapper over Ricky translating for Emilio, so the rest of us have learned nothing while Emilio gets all the good stuff. And I can’t speak Espanol, so it’s not like I can ask him to tell me what I’ve missed. And if I ask him in English, I know he will just reply with the only English he knows, which is, ‘Hey girl, can I get your number?’

“Also, at training, we have the phrase ‘Renteria-ed.’ You’ve seen the man. He’s a muscular bowling ball. So whether he is running into you full speed or blasting shots that hit you, we call it ‘getting Renteria-ed.’ As you know, Danny O’Rourke loves to inflict pain on others and himself, but mostly he has been O’Rourking himself lately, meaning our biggest threat is now getting Renteria-ed. I don’t think I have seen Danny and Emilio challenge each other for a simultaneous Renteria-ing and O’Rourking, but that’s a good thing because it would surely be too gruesome to watch. And besides, those two men are of much more use to the team alive.”

IT’S ALMOST THAT TIME OF YEAR

The calendar is turning fast these days. With Oughton’s Intro-Dunc-tions finished, it can only mean that fantasy football is right around the corner. At the first mention of fantasy football, Danny O’Rourke invited me to follow him across the locker room while he fetched his cell phone. He then showed me the NFL player that was set as his phone’s wallpaper.

“It’s this year’s man-crush,” O’Rourke said. “Stephen Jackson.”

The St. Louis Rams running back is not yet on O’Rourke’s team, as the Crew fantasy football league is currently in training camp. What’s fantasy football training camp like, you may wonder?

“Read some magazines and do some mock drafts,” O’Rourke said. “We’ve had some get-togethers at BC’s place and also on the road. When you hear that Monday Night Football theme song when you make a draft pick online, it makes you feel alive, man.”

The draft is well over a month away, but that didn’t stop Danny O from lobbing verbal grenades at his fiercest rival.

“I will let you know once Will has another shocker of a fantasy draft,” Danny said. “He’s had one every year so far.”

Questions? Comments? Know how to say “tripod” in Spanish? Feel free to write at sirk65@yahoo.com or via Twitter @stevesirk

Steve Sirk is a contributor to TheCrew.com. His first book, “A Massive Season”, which chronicles the Crew’s 2008 MLS Cup championship campaign, is currently available at the Crew Gear store and Amazon.com. This article was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.