Sirk’s Notebook

Sirk's Notebook: Crew 2, Union 1

Nordeck on Tour to Philadelphia

Photo Credit: 
Jason Mowry

Wandering around the Old City district in Philadelphia, with its rows of tiny Colonial-era buildings fronted by munchkin doorways that line the narrow, cobblestone streets, one can’t help but wonder how something as large and modern as a bus is able to get around. The answer is “not too well.” On numerous occasions, I watched buses gingerly make multi-point turns in an effort to inch around tight corners. It may not have been pretty, and it times it may not have even seemed possible, but with enough determination, the driver would eventually get the job done.

If the bus driver took 90 minutes to accomplish his task—and those stuck in Old City traffic might feel that he did— the effort would not be all that dissimilar to the Crew’s 2-1 victory at Philadelphia. Playing on short rest after a cross-country trip with a banged up roster, the Crew methodically worked their way to a much-needed and inartistic road victory.

“That’s the Crew,” said Danny O’Rourke. “I don’t think we won the Supporters’ Shield two years in a row for playing attractive soccer. Sometimes we do, definitely, but at heart, I think we’re scrappers. It’s what we talked about before the game. It doesn’t have to be a pretty win…it just has to be a win.”

And thanks to their usual relentlessness, some take-a-bullet defense, a pair of diving headers from Steven Lenhart, and a lethal dose of veteran game-killing savvy, it was indeed a win. Just like it had to be.

LENHART THE SUPER SUB

When Jason Garey was on the verge of barfing up his vital organs on the field, Crew coach Robert Warzycha did not hesitate to replace him with Steven Lenhart in the 28th minute. Lenhart made the most of his opportunity.

In the 42nd minute, the Big Nasty gave the Crew a 1-0 lead against the run of play. Guillermo Barros Schelotto served a dangerous free kick into the box from 30 yards out, and Lenhart met it with a diving header, beating Union goalkeeper Chris Seitz.

The lead would be short lived as Frankie Hejduk got whistled for a ludicrous penalty on Sebastien Le Toux after an ill-advised lunge created contact that could only be measured at the molecular level. Le Toux converted the stoppage time spot kick to send the teams into the break at 1-1.

But super sub Lenhart saved the day again early in the second half, capping a great team goal. Hejduk played the ball up to Schelotto, whose header found Emilio Renteria in the clear up the right flank. After attacking the space, the muscular Venezuelan crossed the ball into the box. Lenhart found another gear, flashed in front of his tattoo-covered marker, and then buried his second diving header of the game in the 50th minute. It would hold up as the game winner.

“It’s just how the game goes,” said Lenhart. “You just have to be ready to help the team. These guys put me in great positions—Emilio played a great ball in, and so did Guille. It’s the least I could do. It was fun.”

Crew coach Robert Warzycha was obviously pleased with Lenhart’s effort in relief of Garey.

“I started Jason Garey because I thought he would score the goals, but it is great for Steven that he came in and contributed with two nice goals,” Warzycha said. “Sometimes someone comes in and shows you why they are on the field, and Steven is on the field to score goals. He scored two goals today, which was huge for us. It’s not only the service he got, but also that he made great runs, multiple times.”

MORE LENHART: DANCES AND BROKEN NOSES

After his first goal, Lenhart raced to the bench and did a dance with Jed Zayner, Shaun Francis and others.

“It wasn’t that good,” Lenhart said. “I need to work on it. The song is called ‘Teach Me How To Dougie.’ Me, my brother, Jed, Fran-o….we’re all Dougie-ing now. Just trying to mix it up a little.”

When asked about scoring on two diving headers just weeks after suffering a broken nose, Lenhart shrugged it off in his usual fashion.

“It’s just part of it,” he shrugged. “I don’t know, bro. Who cares. There’s lot worse things going on.”

The Big Nasty said he did follow Duncan Oughton’s helpful advice about discarding the protective facemask.

“Yeah, I learned that on the first day,” he said. “I only wore it for a few days at practice and then stopped. Duncan’s got a jacked up nose, though, so I will listen to him. He’s been through the washing machine a few times with that thing, dude.”

GETTING SORTED

Danny O’Rourke spoke about the Crew’s first half troubles with Philly’s attack and how they adjusted at halftime.

“It took us a half to figure out their interchanging,” he said. “They have five or six guys up top that just move. I think we were being too honest. We were running with guys and leaving spaces, which is what they wanted to do to us. In the second half, we covered passing lanes and played more of a zone.”

GUILLE’S SAVVY

Ten of Schelotto’s last 11 assists have come off of free kicks or corners, but Warzycha said that Schelotto brings more to the field than his lethal set piece service. On this night, his game-killing abilities shined brightly, whether it was holding the possession and/or earning time-devouring free kicks.

“It would be hard to put a guy on the field just to wait for a free kick,” Warzycha said. “I think Guillermo contributes in other ways. Not only does he contribute with the assists, but at the end of the game when we need possession in tight spaces, I saw him working hard to do those things to help us win the game.”

CREW BOUNCE BACK AGAIN

The Crew have yet to lose two games in a row all year. Despite the short week and missing the likes of Eddie Gaven, Robbie Rogers, Adam Moffat, and Gina Padula, the Crew gutted out the road win. That confident resiliency has been a hallmark of this core group of players.

“It was a short week for us and we were missing a few guys, and Philly is a tough team with a great crowd behind them, but the guys stuck to the task,” said Duncan Oughton. “It wasn’t always pretty, but the guys did a good job.”

“I don’t think anyone on this team is surprised,” said Andy Iro. “We’re confident. We were champions two years ago and we won the Supporters’ Shield again last year, and while I know some people doubt us, I don’t know how you can doubt the two-time defending Supporters’ Shield winners. We’re doing what we need to do as the games start whittling down. First comes making the playoffs, then earning home field advantage in the East, and then going after our third Shield.”

FAMILIAR FACES IN UNFAMLIAR PLACES

The Crew squared off against a pair of Massive Champions who happened to be dressed in Union blue instead of the massive banana kit. Oughton said playing against championship teammates such as Alejandro Moreno and Stefani Miglioranzi doesn’t really come into play once the whistle blows.

“If there’s a ball to be won, you win the ball without thinking about it,” the Kiwi said. “You don’t worry about if it’s this guy or that guy. But after the game, yeah, you definitely have a hug and that.”

That’s easy for Oughton to say from the right flank. Danny O’Rourke, on the other hand, actually had to defend against Moreno on the field.

“Man,” Danny O said with a grin, “those antics you used to love when he was on your team become a pain when you have to play against him.”

Midway through the first half, O’Rourke appeared to have words for Moreno, who sat on the field after O’Rourke fouled him, throwing his hands in the air in frustration, lobbying for a yellow card that didn’t come.

“He made a run and our feet tangled up,” O’Rourke said, “and then he went down and was throwing his hands in the air like I should have been carded. I walked by and was like, ‘Are you serious?’ But that’s what Ale does. He holds the ball up, gets everyone involved, and he gets foul calls and yellow cards in dangerous areas. Like I said, you love it when he does it for your team, but not so much when you have to play against him.”

Despite the inconvenience of having to play against Moreno, O’Rourke said he was happy to see his former teammates.

“We’re a family in this room, and that group of (2008) guys will always be family,” he said. “Guys like Alejandro and Stefani are still a part of what’s been created here.” 

COOLEST BABY NAME EVER

Miglioranzi and his wife, Minta, recently welcomed their first child into the world. It’s a boy, and he has the coolest name ever: Enzo Miglioranzi. I can’t help but say it over and over again. Try it for yourself. Enzo Miglioranzi. It flows so well, you can’t help but get hooked. Enzo Miglioranzi. What a great name.
 
PPL PARK

The only way the phrase “diamond in the rough” would be more appropriate for PPL Park is if it were a baseball stadium. It’s a glistening jewel in an urban industrial wasteland. What seemed to be the only two fully functional buildings on the interminable drive from the highway to the stadium are a casino and a prison, which are fittingly located right next to each other—a pair of buildings designed to prevent escape into the outside world. And really, that’s probably best for the inhabitants of both, given the outside world that would await them.

But down the road, in the shadows of the Commodore Barry Bridge, sits PPL Park, where the soccer community freely gathers. Tailgates, kickarounds, and concourse concerts featuring a bagpipe-accompanied rock band covering Black Sabbath tunes…it’s literally the only sign of life, much less vibrancy, for miles around.

The stadium itself is terrific. It’s not as imposing as Red Bull Arena’s claustrophobic walls of blue seats, but its open design is certainly intimate. The place surely doesn’t lack for noise. And its signature feature is a breathtaking view of the Commodore Barry Bridge, which rises and stretches into the horizon above the river end.

The Crew’s players gave the stadium a big thumbs-up.

“The stadium is great,” said Andy Iro. “The area around it is not so great, but I hope that with the new team and stadium, it’s something the community can rally around to renovate the area. The stadium and the environment are great.”

“Stadium’s great,” said Danny O’Rourke. “The fans are great. That bridge overlooking the field is sweet.”

“Awesome stadium,” said Steven Lenhart. “Their fans are great. I heard the F-word more in this stadium than in all of the other stadiums combined. Sitting on the bench, Leandre and I were looking out the one end with the bridge at sunset. It was so sick. It was such an awesome view. It was beautiful. This is my first time in Philly, and I like it.”

Photos from PPL Park

Three more photos from PPL Park

NORDECKE ON TOUR

Like the Crew’s earlier trip to New York, the team found a rowdy swath of yellow in the stands offering support. While the Union were smart and stuck the traveling Nordecke close to the Sons of Ben to try to minimize the traveling group’s verbal impact, it was in vain. The Crew’s players still heard them loud and clear.

“We saw them and we could hear them,” said Iro. “It’s important because it motivates us. When our fans travel to games, it gives us a lift and we don’t want to let them down. Except for Salt Lake and L.A., all of our West Coast trips are done now, so hopefully the fans can make the trips to the other close ones like Toronto, D.C., and Chicago.”

“They’re great,” said O’Rourke. “Just knowing that they are taking the bus down and getting drunk and rowdy, it’s great. It’s what we need. We were more than happy to have our 12th man with us tonight.”

“It was a great representation by our fans,” said Lenhart. “What’s it, like an eight-hour drive? I don’t know if I could do that, but I am so glad that they did.”

MR. NUMBERS NERD: NEW STADIUM EDITION

The victory improved the Crew’s all-time record to 3-3-3 in their first game at one of Major League Soccer’s soccer-specific stadiums. Entering this season, their only win had been at Crew Stadium’s inaugural game. They had been 0-3-3 on the road during their maiden trips to opponents’ soccer-specific stadiums, but in 2010, they are a tidy 2-0-0, scoring five goals and conceding just two. Here are the Crew’s all-time first-time results…

Columbus Crew Stadium (5/15/99): Columbus 2, New England 0
Home Depot Center (7/30/03): Los Angeles 2, Columbus 1
Pizza Hut Park (10/6/05): Dallas 2, Columbus 1
Toyota Park (7/29/06): Columbus 0, Chicago 0
BMO Field (5/26/07): Columbus 2, Toronto 2
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (7/4/07): Columbus 0, Colorado 0
Rio Tinto Stadium (4/2/09): Salt Lake 4, Columbus 1
Red Bull Arena (5/20/10): Columbus 3, New York 1
PPL Park (8/5/10): Columbus 2, Philadelphia 1

FAREWELL TO JED

There was a bit of sad news after the game, as word spread that Jed Zayner had been traded to D.C. United. On the same night I wandered over to the Philly locker room to catch up with Moreno and Miglioranzi, it was sad to see another Massive Champion leaving the fold. These things happen in pro sports, of course, but it’s always tough to see a member of a championship team leave town.

Zayner is a player that made you not only root for the shirt, but for the man inside of it. A genuinely friendly and funny guy, Zayner will always be remembered in these parts not only as a Massive Champion, but for his tireless charity work and his hilarious training camp blog. Jed’s a class act, and he was a part of the cultural metamorphosis in Crewville that has now made it possible to feel terribly sorry for someone who just got traded from Columbus to D.C. United.

Zayner now joins Alejandro Moreno, Stefani Miglioranzi, Brad Evans and Pat Noonan as Massive Champions playing elsewhere in MLS. But there are certain bonds that a simple transaction can’t erase. Just like the others, Jed Zayner will always be Massive, now and forevermore.


Questions? Comments? As annoyed as I am that Dwight Burgess did not experience a long wait to see the Liberty Bell? 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.