Sirk’s Notebook: Crew 2, Fire 1

Sirk’s Notebook: Crew 2, Fire 1 and Crew 3, Charleston Battery 0 (USOC)

Renteria against Chicago

Photo Credit: 
Jamie Sabau (Getty Images)

Red, White & Boom begat Red & White doom. And then three days after the Crew comfortably extinguished the Chicago Fire in MLS play, they battered the Charleston Battery in the U.S. Open Cup. Four days. Two home games. Five goals. Two victories. Now THAT’s a holiday weekend.

Let’s start by looking at some events from the Crew’s 2-1 victory over the Fire…

MOFFAT ROCKETING FISH IN A BARREL

The Crew took a 1-0 lead in the 43rd minute thanks to an opportune cleanup effort by Adam Moffat. The play started with a sublime ball into the box from Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Guille’s through-ball met the foot of Jason Garey just as Fire goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra attempted to smother the ball. Instead, the ball leaked toward the goal, where Moffat blasted it into the empty net from about 10 feet away.

“That is my range,” said Moffat. “I’ve not missed too many from there. You don’t get in that position much, so I thought, ‘Am I going to head it? Back heel it? Do something more creative?’ But then I decided I was just going to whack it. Thankfully I didn’t do my hamstring from hitting it so hard.

“I don’t think I could have missed from there,” he continued. “I need to look at it again. Maybe I could have. I’ve surprised myself before. I hit it pretty hard. If people ask me about the goal, I can honestly say it was a rocket. I don’t have to tell them where it was from. I’ll just say I hit it real hard and the keeper had no chance. That’s all true.”

Moffat revealed that he was the focus of head coach Robert Warzycha’s pregame premonition.

“Before the game, Bobby told me I was going to score tonight,” Moffat said. “I don’t think he imagined it like that. He probably envisioned something else.”

Still, it’s always good for a player when he makes his coach look like a genius, right? It’s certainly better than the alternative.

“I suppose I could have hit it wide and said, ‘Ha! You were wrong!’, but that wouldn’t have been the best idea,” Moffat laughed. “I don’t think the team or fans would have been happy. And I think Bobby would have dragged me to the bench.”

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

Duncan Oughton revealed an interesting tidbit about Moffat’s goal…

“What’s funny is that we practiced that on Friday,” Oughton said. “We were taking angled rips at the top corner from in close, just for fun.  And then Moffat got the chance to do it in the game the very next night and he smashed it. It was awesome.”

FRANKIE GETS JUBALANIED

A minute after the Crew took the lead, the game was tied. Frankie Hejduk’s attempted clearance of a Fire cross bounced off of the captain’s head and into the Crew’s goal.

“It was one of my better finishes,” Hejduk joked. “I will score an own goal every game if we get the three points. If that’s what we need, so be it. I was just trying to swing my head around and bounce it out, but it hit my head and went in. It was just one of those things. What can you do?”

“That’s the best finish of his I have ever seen with his head,” said goalkeeper William Hesmer. “I had already lost track because my eyes had already focused on Nyarko’s head. Then I saw the ball come across and it was like, ‘Man, that ball must have hit Frankie.’ I was a half-second late.”

The goalkeeper placed no blame on his right back.

“I was really upset because we need to be more disciplined after the first goal,” Hesmer said. “After we scored the goal, everybody stopped playing. We let them come with an easy throw in and an easy cross. I don’t blame Frankie for that. I blame guys who are letting them whip in free crosses. That can’t happen. We need to be more disciplined than that if we want to win a championship.”

Jason Garey also had no blame for the captain, but for an entirely different reason.

“Frankie got Jubilanied,” said Garey. “That’s what we’re calling it. That ball makes you look stupid sometimes. Sometimes on crosses it makes you look like you never played soccer before. Sometimes it happens, but you have to keep going.”

GAREY’S SPECTACULAR WINNER

In the second minute of first -half stoppage time, Garey buried a header from a perfect Eddie Gaven cross to give the Crew the lead that they would never relinquish. Gaven beat two defenders on the left side of the box and served the ball between the two defenders that were marking Garey. The forward finished with aplomb.

“That was awesome, man,” said a beaming Garey. “I needed a goal, you know? I needed to get on the score sheet. What can you say about Eddie Gaven? He beat their whole team on the left side, and I made a little run and he put the ball on my head. He probably would have been pissed if I missed that one. I had to score that one.”

Apart from Gaven’s perfect service, Garey credited two other things for his goal. First, his haircut.

“That’s my tennis ball, right there,” Garey said, while rubbing the fuzz on his scalp. “That’s what my wife calls it because I cut it myself. She wasn’t too happy, but it works though, because I cut it about a week ago.”

The other thing that Garey credited was Hejduk’s own-goal finish.

“I saw how Frankie squared up to the ball and I made sure I did the same thing,” Garey joked.

“That’s Jason being a great teammate because I am going to take all of the credit for that goal,” Hejduk said. “It can be very deflating when (an own-goal) happens. No one ever wants to give a goal like that, especially when you haven’t been playing and you want to start good when you come back. Up to that point, I thought I was doing all right. When something like that happens, it’s very easy to shut down mentally. I tried to block it out and stay focused, and it’s a lot easier to block it out when your team scores a minute later. So it was forgotten right away. Sometimes if you go into halftime and it’s still 1-1, it will remain in the back of your mind. Garey definitely erased that from my mind, so that was cool. And now he’s giving me a chance to take credit for his goal, so I’ll take it.”

STATS ARE NOT GAREY’S FRIEND

Garey has a habit of creating goals in ways that do not register on the stat sheet. He’s officially tallied one goal and one assist on the season, but that’s not even half of the story. He’s been robbed of a header that led to a Robbie Rogers put-back, he’s fed Emilio Renteria for a shot that hit the post, then fell to Schelotto for a tap-in, and now he’s pressured the Chicago goalkeeper to create the spill that led to Moffat’s empty netter. So he’s played a vital role in three goalmouth scores with no official credit for it.

“I would love an assist (on Moffat’s goal),” Garey said. “Let’s appeal to MLS. Emilio and I didn’t get one last week with Guillermo, and we were talking about that in broken English, so let’s get me an assist this week. But seriously, I am just glad Adam followed the play. He followed the play and their defenders didn’t, so he deserved the goal.”

NO MORE 2-2 VOODOO

Since four of the past five Crew-Fire matches ended in a 2-2 score, the second half seemed destined to lead to a Chicago equalizer. Sure, the Fire weren’t really threatening, but still… One almost had the feeling that the Crew would be cosmically forced to score a second out-of-nowhere own goal if that’s what it took. The game HAD to finish 2-2, right?

William Hesmer wasn’t fazed in the least.

“I felt comfortable tonight,” he said. “We were controlling the game. They’re a bit of a different team and they have a new coach. They’re still trying to figure themselves out. That’s not the same Fire team we have faced the last few years.”

Hejduk also felt a different vibe.

“We’ve had battles against Chicago every single time, but I don’t think this one was,” Hejduk said. “I think we outclassed them a little bit. I think we outplayed them.”

LACK OF WHISTLES

Sixty minutes unto Saturday’s game, the Crew and Fire had only been whistled for a combined seven fouls. It was on pace to be a record-setting night, although a late flurry allowed the game to finish with 19 combined fouls.

Still, referee Alex Prus was content to let the teams play, much to the apparent consternation of Schelotto, who begrudgingly peeled himself off the turf on several occasions as play carried on. Was it a really clean game?

“Not really,” said Moffat. “Alex didn’t blow for much and Guillermo was down a lot. I talked to Alex in the first half and said, ‘I know he goes down sometimes, but just because he goes down it doesn’t mean he wasn’t fouled. Usually it’s because he really was fouled.’ He obviously didn’t listen to me.”

Now let’s move on to the Open Cup, where the Crew played a team that had eliminated the Fire a week earlier…

CREW 3, BATTERY 0

The Crew routed the Charleston Battery, 3-0, on Tuesday to make their first Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal since 2002, the year Columbus won the competition. An Emilio Renteria penalty kick gave the Crew the halftime lead, and then second-half tallies by Steven Lenhart and Eddie Gaven iced the game.

EMILIO RENTERIA KILLS THE BALL FROM THE SPOT

Steven Lenhart got knocked to the ground while leaping for a Duncan Oughton cross, earning the Crew a penalty kick. Emilio Renteria grabbed the ball and walked to the spot in the 38th minute. 

“That was decided on the field, to be honest with you,” said Warzycha. “We practiced penalties yesterday, and Emilio scored all of his. He pointed first to me that he was going to take it, and sometimes when you don't have a designated guy on the field who is going to take it, I like the guy who is first to the ball. So when Emilio actually signaled that he wants to take it, I didn't have a problem.”

Warzycha was asked if he was worried that Renteria would launch the ball out of the stadium.

“Absolutely!” he said with a laugh. “But like I said, he took some penalties yesterday, and he hit the frame all the time. With that power, sometimes things happen. He has a harder shot than probably everybody I know.”

Boy howdy. Renteria stepped to the spot and unleashed a sizzling shot that literally lifted the net off of its foundation.

“Thank goodness it hit the net, because I think it might have killed someone if it hadn’t,” remarked Oughton. “He took it well. He smashed it. If you don’t know where to put it, just frigging smash it. If the goalie had been in the way, I think he would have dived out of the way if he even would have had a chance. It was coming with a bit of force. He hit it with a fair bit of velocity.”

And that’s not all.

“Emilio grunted when he kicked it,” Oughton said. “I think his grunt can still be heard echoing around downtown Columbus.”

CAPTAIN KIWI

Although reduced largely to sporadic substitute’s duty for most of the past few years, Oughton was given the chance to shine on Tuesday. One of the Crew’s all-time most popular players and the soul of the team, Oughton wore the captain’s armband and played a feisty and productive 90 minutes, splitting time between central midfield and the right flank. He also handled free kick and corner kick duties, serving several dangerous balls.

“You know what you can get from Duncan,” said Warzycha. “He is going to battle 90 minutes, and he is fit to play 90 minutes. It was nice to see him, especially on the dead balls where the service was very good today from him. I think he had a good game. He helped the team win the game.”

Oughton took a nasty airborne spill in the middle of the second half. After regaining his bearings, he immediately served a perfect low cross to Steven Lenhart to give the Crew a 2-0 lead in the 70th minute.

“I got a bit angry because the guy wasn’t even going for the ball,” Oughton said. “He just hip-checked me. So it was nice to get a bit of retribution by getting in behind him and setting up Steve for the goal right after that. In my wisdom, I’ve learned that that’s the best way to get back at someone, rather than getting in his face and telling him to eff off. He actually came over and apologized, so it was all good.”

CREW EYEING THE CUP

Having reached the semifinals, one gets the sense that the Crew can smell blood in the water. The U.S. Open Cup is the one domestic title that this core group of Massive Champions has yet to claim.

“When we started this year, we wanted to win everything we can,” Oughton said. “It’s a championship, so it should be a big deal. Lamar Hunt, our founder, is the name behind it, so it should be special to us. We’ve sat down and talked about it, and I think we’re playing like it is special to us. We’re going for it, man.”

“We’re two games away from winning it,” said Moffat. “This is the one we haven’t done. We went out early the last couple years. We’ve got a strong enough team to maybe not play our full first team and still get the results we need. We want to win it so we can get that career Grand Slam. Hopefully we’ll do it.”

ANOTHER NEAR MISS FOR DANNY O

Danny O’Rourke had another good scoring chance in the second half, but his back post run to get on the end of an Emmanuel Ekpo cross resulted in a shot that went high and wide to the far post. I am becoming obsessed with the idea of Danny O finally scoring a goal and I am encouraged by the increasing number of chances over the past year or so. I am convinced it is going to happen.

“The Open Cup would be perfect for Danny to score goal,” said Moffat. “That way he could prove he could score a goal, but it would also keep his chase of the MLS scoreless record alive. It would add more drama.”

If it’s true that you practice how you play, Oughton told a story that fills me with hope that good things could be right around the corner for O’Rourke.

“He did score a goal in practice the other day,” Oughton revealed. “We were doing a shooting drill and he shot it into the goal. It was incredible. He was about 12 yards out. There was even a goalie. The goalie was off to the side of the goal getting a drink of water, and Danny smashed a ball right up the middle of the goal. It was sensational.”

O’Rourke was not feeling as confident about his chances after the game. He even mentioned that he may be cursed. But I believe in Danny and I hope Danny continues taking his chances for a good cause. I received confirmation that equipment man Rusty Wummel has to quit smoking if Danny scores in ANY competition. There’s no wriggling off the hook on some sort of Open Cup technicality.

“League games, playoffs, Champions League, Open Cup, scrimmages against the Dayton Dutch Lions…ALL of it,” O’Rourke declared.

SANNEH JERSEY REMOVED FROM PREMISES

As readers may recall, I placed the blame for the Crew’s 2-0 defeat to the Los Angeles Galaxy on May 29 solely on the presence of some guy’s autographed Tony Sanneh Crew jersey. There was no other rational explanation for the Crew losing a game in which they led 21-3 in shots and 15-0 in corner kicks.

In response, I placed a bounty on the shirt. The owner could turn in the Sanneh jersey in exchange for an autographed 2009 Chad Marshall jersey and a $20.00 donation to the Sanneh Foundation, which is Tony’s non-profit community service organization.

I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to two intrepid readers who made it their mission to track down our man. The father-in-law/daughter-in-law combo of Ken and Jen Bussard recognized the Sanneh jersey guy as someone who sat in their section. At the D.C. United home game, the Bussards sprung into action.

“So we were sitting there and I looked back, and at first I thought the guy wasn't going to show up,” Jen explained. “But as the clock was counting down to kick off, I realized the guy two rows behind us had an older jersey on and noticed the number 20 on the front.  But I double checked a print out of the portion of the last notebook and saw that 20 was Sanneh's jersey. Now, I'm probably one of the shyest people ever, and I kept telling myself that I have to confront this guy on behalf of all Crew fans. I think a part of it was that I didn’t even want to get close to him for any bad karma of his to rub off onto me. So I was able to get Ken to talk to the guy during halftime.”

“My daughter-in-law, all of 4'12" and 95 pounds, chickened out,” Ken agreed, picking up the story from there. “She handed me the printed article to give to him. First, I had to be sure it was him, so I walked all the way up to the top and back down. Sure enough, there it was for all the world to see: S-a-n-n…you know the rest of that accursed name. So I took him the printout of your article and told him there was a bounty out on his jersey. He laughed and said he'd heard.”

Jen noted that the tenor of the Crew-United game immediately changed once Ken served the papers.

“I think that was the start of good things to come,” she said. “As we passed off the article – with your email highlighted – during half time, the second half came with the Crew scoring twice!”

Yes, the Bussards did great work. The fruits of their successful manhunt were immediately apparent. When I got home from the stadium that night, I had an email from a guy named Kevin, who was the owner of the cursed Sanneh jersey.

“I was quite surprised to see your posse of bounty hunters out in full force at tonight's Crew game,” he wrote. “There was even one that came prepared and handed me a printed copy of your bounty notice.
I won this jersey the first year that I started attending Crew games as a raffle prize. It was intended for my son, but he never wore it because it was too big, so I just took it over. I was never a Sanneh fan and wore it only because it is a Crew jersey and the only one I have. I would gladly trade you for a Chad Marshall jersey as my son and I are much bigger Marshall fans.”

At Saturday’s Crew-Fire game, Kevin and I consummated the jersey swap. Here’s Kevin with his new and improved autographed Crew jersey…


(Photo by Jason Mowry)

I offer my sincerest thanks to Kevin for being such a good sport when random strangers confronted him about his Tony Sanneh jersey. And thanks to Ken and Jen Bussard for doing Crew Nation proud with their bounty hunting skills. They are true Crew heroes.

As promised, I made my $20.00 donation to the Sanneh Foundation on July 7, 2010. And that leaves one crucial question… What happens to the Sanneh jersey? My first inclination, which was suggested by many other Crew loyalists, was to burn it. But that seemed a little over the top. (As if issuing a bounty wasn’t already ridiculous enough.) Instead, I wanted to keep the theme of making everybody a winner. The Bussards are winners because they are now heroes. Kevin is a winner because he now has a much cooler and historically meaningful autographed Crew jersey. The Sanneh Foundation is a winner because they got $20.00. And so I decided that the best place for the jersey would be to ship it off to Minnesota, Sanneh’s home state. Tucker and I have sent the jersey to Bruce McGuire, proprietor of the excellent du Nord blog. (http://dunord.blogspot.com/) I figured that as a fellow Minnesotan, Bruce has a greater appreciation for Tony’s career as a whole, whereas Crew fans rightfully only associate him with tanking our 2004 Supporters’ Shield winners. So I figured by shipping him the jersey, it will find a loving home and it will also keep that shirt way the hell away from Crew Stadium for now and evermore. Everybody wins.

And just when I think this whole exercise was ridiculously drawn out and silly, I reflect on these before-and-after photos and results….

BEFORE: Crew lose to Galaxy 2-0 despite leading shots 21-3 and corner kicks 15-0.


(Photo by Sam Fahmi]   

AFTER: Crew beat Fire 2-1 for first regular season home win against Chicago since July 3, 2004.


(Photo by Jason Mowry)

The results speak for themselves. This was totally worth it.

DUNNY VS. DUNCAN: THROWBACK WEEKEND

With Notebook Hall of Famer Brian Dunseth in town to broadcast the match for Fox Soccer Channel, it was inevitable that a Dunc & Dunny smack talk war was going to break out as if it were 2003 all over again.

After game, Dunny couldn’t help unleashing a commentary on Duncan’s wardrobe as everyone had a drink and mingled in the tent.

“I had yet to see a pullover, white v-neck shirt until I saw Duncan walk over,” Dunny said. “And white is see-through when it is wet, and yet Duncan has been able to pull it off. He has also been able to pull off wearing a dinosaur-tooth necklace. You can see the dinosaur tooth because it peeks through. It’s like a wet t-shirt contest over there.”

I couldn’t see Duncan’s necklace from across the bar, so I asked Dunny how he knew it was a dinosaur tooth.

“It’s very, very clear,” he said. “I may have only three semesters at Cal Sate Fullerton, and he may have 8 or 9 semesters on me, but it’s very clear that that is a dinosaur tooth.”

Dunny then moved on to Duncan’s hair.

“Look at his wig,” he said. “I thought after 15 years as a Columbus Crew player, at some point he wouldn’t be so dodgy, but I am highly disappointed. His mullet is a lampshade. It’s like a Lego helmet. He picks it up, puts it on the lampshade beside his bed when he falls asleep, then puts it back on when he wakes up in the morning.”

Dunny wasn’t done.

“And all that with corduroy pants? I’m not even sure his top pants button is buttoned. And he’s wearing a rope belt. You’d think Simon Elliott would have given him some fashion tips. Simon is way less dodgy than Duncan, and that says a lot.”

Naturally, I couldn’t let Dunny’s comments stand without getting a rebuttal from everyone’s favorite Kiwi.

“Culture is something that Brian Dunseth doesn’t have,” Oughton said. “He’s only worried about what the next person thinks is cool. He is a flamboyant metrosexual. Brian Dunseth does his hair in a faux hawk that Cristiano Ronaldo was wearing two years ago, but mullets are back in baby! In New Zealand, they are in for the first time, but in America, they are back!”

Duncan scoffed at Dunny’s lampshade comment.

“He’s stealing jokes from me,” Oughton said. “I used to make that joke about Mike Lapper’s clip-on haircut. Dunseth can’t even come up with his own material. That’s amazing. And I wouldn’t put my mullet on the lampshade because it would burn.”

(“That’s smart,” agreed Andy Gruenebaum, before pointing at Duncan’s head and adding, “Not just a hat rack. Or a mullet rack.”)

Oughton then proceeded to point out the factual inaccuracies in Dunny’s commentary.

“This necklace  is a whale bone,” he said. “As for the shirt, once again, Brian ‘Embellishment’ Dunseth has come up with something that is not based on fact. You’ve now seen the shirt for yourself. It does in fact have buttons. Dunny would like for me to get wet in my white shirt, because he would like to see my nipples.”

Duncan was correct that his shirt had buttons. And Dunny got the pants wrong too.

“These pants are not corduroy,” Dunc correctly stated. “Ask Dunseth if he has ever heard of Giorgio Armani. He probably hasn’t.  And the only reason he hasn’t said anything about my shoes is because he couldn’t see them past his huge ego.”

Dunny didn’t buy any of it.

“I saw his so-called shoes,’ Dunny said. “He’s wearing slippers. And his shirt looks like it has buttons, but it’s the 100-yard rule. From afar, they look like buttons, but when you get up close, they are suspect. Those are fake buttons. Your eyes were playing tricks on you, Sirk. Don’t be fooled. And why does he wear a whale bone? Wait, this is the guy that wears Velcro gloves for sheep. Why bother asking why he wears what he wears?”

DANTE WEIGHS IN

When Duncan and Dunny start going back and forth like this, I often have to seek an impartial opinion from Dante Washington.

“I really can’t comment on Duncan’s wardrobe because I wasn’t really paying any attention to him, which I normally don’t ever do, because he has zero credibility when it comes to his wardrobe,” Dante said. “Duncan definitely gets dressed in the dark. With that being said, his allegations of his proper hairdo, that thing…any day of the week, the faux hawk will surpass the mullet. Unless you’re from Argentina. But Duncan is from Australia, which is another country that starts with A and ends with A, so maybe it all makes sense now. I take that back. Duncan’s haircut is perfect for him and his country.”

Somehow, we eventually got to talking about the rope bridge that connects Australia and New Zealand. I asked Dante if perhaps they had upgraded to a zip line, so people could just clip on and zip down between the islands rather than walk heel to toe over the rope bridge.

“There are two zip lines,” Dante confirmed. “One that goes from Australia to New Zealand and one that goes New Zealand to Australia. The one from Australia to New Zealand, that Australia operates, works right. You hook on and you zip right down the line to New Zealand. The one that goes from New Zealand to Australia, that New Zealand operates, has the line tilted upwards, so when you hook on, they give you a little push and then gravity takes you right back to New Zealand. They’ve never figured it out. And Australia won’t tell them.”

I remarked that hanging out with the Notebook Hall of Famers is so educational.

“If you want something educational, ask Duncan to name the continents,” Dante said. “I’m sorry but Australasia is not a (bleeping) continent.”

PREPARE TO BE BOBBY DAZZLED

Enough of Dunny’s questionable critique of Duncan’s questionable fashion choices. Let’s move on to the real deal. In the last Notebook, we learned all about Brian Bliss’s favorite dress shoes, which were dubbed “bobby dazzlers” by an Englishman, whose use of Brit slang confounded Adam Moffat’s Brit-slang dictionary, which dictionary-purchaser Steven Lenhart now wants to burn because of its inadequacy. (Lots of complicated storylines intertwined there.)

Anyway, I figured we would end this Notebook on a gorgeous note, with a picture of Blissy’s renowned bobby dazzlers. Well, one of them, anyway. If we showed both, you would involuntarily weep at the beauty of it all, like the Crazy Double Rainbow Guy on YouTube. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGqtxdKjqbI)

Trust me. It’s for your own good. I don’t want to turn any of you into Crazy Double Bobby Dazzler Guy, so Blissy is only posing with one shoe.

Questions? Comments? Reduced to emotional blubbering at the sight of just a single Bobby Dazzler? 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.