Sirk's Notebook: Crew 3, Rapids 1

The Crew Fanatasy Football league is fast approaching

Crew vs. Rapids

Photo Credit: 
Jamie Sabau (Getty Images)

I went away for a long weekend and returned to find out that William Hesmer and the eldest generations of his family (?!?) had somehow become the most hated people in Utah and that the Crew had played such an unspeakably horrid game there that I should immediately delete it from my DVR sight unseen, which I did. That’s not the world I wanted to come back to.

Thankfully, the Crew seem to know the cure for hiccups. The team has not lost two in a row all year, and they responded with a pair of emphatic home victories. First was a 1-0 Champions League victory over Municipal, which was far more lopsided than the score would indicate. Up next was a 3-1 league victory over the Colorado Rapids.

Here’s the usual mish-mash of notes about the Crew’s brief home stand. Some stuff involving the games, and plenty that doesn’t….

GAREY’S GAME-WINNER

The Crew took an early lead on Saturday when Guillermo Barros Schelotto converted a 6th minute penalty kick after Eddie Gaven had been marginally taken down by Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens. What followed, in the words of Crew head coach Robert Warzycha, was this: “Basically, we stopped playing.”

Colorado controlled much of the remainder of the first half, finally scoring on stoppage time when Pablo Mastroeni converted a flawless give-and-go with Mehdi Ballouchy. It was so flawlessly done, it resembled a practice drill. That’s both a compliment to the Rapids and a non-flattering portrait of the Crew’s defending on the play.

All that was the set-up for one of those game-changing, industrious work-rate goals from Jason Garey. Rapids defender Marvell Wynne made a shockingly poor clearance of a long boot from Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer. The ball bounced off of Wynne’s head and floated into the Rapids’ box. Garey, fishing for a bad bounce, anticipated the play and struck the ball under a hard-charging Pickens a split second before Pickens wiped him out. The Crew had regained the lead.

“As a forward, you want to be ready for anything,” Garey said. “It took a weird deflection off their defender, and I saw the goalie coming so I knew I was going to get hit, but I just tried to get it under him.”

GAREY’S GOAL CELEBRATION

The aftermath of Garey’s goal was comical. He built up a head of steam, did a belly flop onto the grass, and then….barely slid at all. It was reminiscent of the scene in Major League when Willie Mays Hayes came up a few feet short of the base with an ill-timed slide.

“My college roommate was in town and he told me if I scored I had to do a slide,” Garey said. “I thought the field was a little bit more slick than it actually was. It started raining right after, so if I would have done it then, it would have worked a lot better.”

Garey’s teammates were amused.

“Jay doesn’t score very much, which is why he doesn’t have any good celebrations,” said Andy Gruenebaum. “I mean, look at what he’s wearing. The guy has no style. He’s not very good looking either. What can you do? He did his best. But like I said, he scores so infrequently that when he does, he just freaks out and doesn’t know what to do.”

“He looked like a fish,” observed Adam Moffat. “As a fisherman, I think he wanted to give back to the fish. It was like, ‘This is for you guys, fish, even though I kill most of you.’”

LENHART’S ICER

Steven Lenhart iced the game with a goal in the 80th minute. It was a thing of beauty. Guillermo Barros Schelotto sent a long free kick, right to left, into the Rapids’ box. Even half way there, I was convinced that Schelotto had hit the ball too deep and that a goal kick was imminent. But then, as if the ball were on a string, or if it had been sucked into the magical gravitational pull of Chad Marshall’s head, it bent back toward the far post. As usual, Marshall dominated his marker. After skying for the ball, he headed the ball back across the goal mouth, where it easily bounced off of Lenhart’s head and into the goal.

“It was a good pass from Chad,” Lenhart said. “When you’re in the middle and the ball goes over your head like that, you know that if someone gets a head on it, they are going to come back across the goal. I was ready. It was just a great job by Chad to keep it at head height for me. All I did was run into it.”

After the goal, Lenhart did not get to do his Dougie dance.

“No Dougie,” Lenhart sighed. “I was going to Dougie, but Iro gummed me up and tripped me.”

Indeed, Iro tried a standard NFL football tackle on Lenhart, but more or less bounced off his target. As he went to the ground, Iro successfully horse-collared Lenhart to the turf. It would have been a 15-yard penalty in the NFL.

Perhaps Iro can take tackling lessons from Schelotto, who laid out Marvell Wynne with an open field hit at the 22:55 mark of the first half. As Wynne waited for a clearance to drop from the sky, Schelotto popped him Ronnie Lott style and sent him flying. After landing and rolling, Wynne came to rest about five yards later. I was waiting for ESPN’s talking heads to magically appear and scream “JACKED…UP!”

MR. NUMBERS NERD: THREE GOALS BY THREE DIFFERENT FORWARDS EDITION

Against Colorado, the Crew got goals from three different players who are rostered as forwards. With names like Brian McBride, Stern John, Jeff Cunningham, Edson Buddle, and Dante Washington all overlapping in the Crew’s record books, one might think that this has been a fairly common occurrence in Crew history. The truth is that it’s not. Saturday was only the fourth time in club history that three different players rostered as forwards have scored in the same game. And the first instance was in the infamous “Curtis Spiteri Game”, when Chicago sent their back up keeper out to play the second half of the meaningless season finale, with the Fire up 2-0. With neither side playing for anything, the Crew lit him up for six goals in the second half.

Two other fun facts about this list: First, while it has only happened four times, two of the instances came in back to back games in 2006. Second, Jason Garey has now been involved in three of the four instances.

Here are the games in which the Crew got goals from three different players rostered as forwards:

10/26/03: 6-2 win vs. CHI (Buddle 2, McBride 2, Cunningham)
9/30/06: 3-2 win vs. DAL (Ngwenya, Garey, Thomas)
10/7/06: 4-1 win at CHI (Ngwenya, Garey, Virtuoso)
8/21/10: 3-1 win vs. COL (Schelotto, Garey, Lenhart)

THE RETURN OF EDDIE GAVEN

This past week saw Eddie Gaven go the distance against both Municipal and Colorado. Not only was it great to see Gaven making the team around him better as he has all year, but on a personal level, it was great to see Gaven playing at all. His brutal concussion on July 31 at Chivas USA was cringe-worthy and worrisome. The way he was traveling at full speed….the way his head hit the goalkeeper’s knee…the way his neck buckled like the front end of a crash test vehicle…the way the players on the field immediately signaled for medical attention as they hovered over his motionless body…it all made for a queasy and upsetting moment—a moment that makes you forget Eddie Gaven the player and worry about Eddie Gaven the man.

Thankfully, Gaven escaped with “only” a grade two concussion. His symptoms have subsided and he is now able to play again. In fact, he doesn’t appear to have missed a beat.

The preceding paragraph makes stupid stunts like this possible: I approached Gaven and asked him for the $100 he owes me. I told him he bet me $100 that he would score a goal against Chivas.

“Huh,” Gaven said with exaggerated, head-scratching bafflement. “For some reason, I don’t remember that.”

Craig Merz and Shawn Mitchell chuckled in the background. They put me up to it, as it was a continuation of what they had been doing at training. Merz started by asking Gaven for the $20 he owed him based on the bet he’d score against Chivas. The next day, Shawn upped the ante to $50. Now it was my turn to go for $100.

One figures that Gaven may have been inundated with memory-related pranks by now, especially from the jokers in the Crew’s locker room, but he said that is not the case.

“It’s just those two,” he laughed while pointing out Merz and Mitchell. “They are very shady. They must think that serious concussions are funny or something.”

Gaven being Gaven, he then stressed it was all in good fun and that he wasn’t really mad.

G-BAUM BETWEEN THE PIPES

Wednesday’s Champions League victory over Municipal was a chance for goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum to see some action, and he looked very sharp. Emmanuel Ekpo’s juke-a-licious, three-defenders-with-their-shorts-around-their-ankles goal was the only goal that Gruenebaum would need to pick up the victory.

“I’ve been getting some swagger back at practice,” Gruenebaum said. “It’s taken me a while to really get back. I’ve been training for a while, but I think lately is when I have started to come back into my own. Now I feel like I’m really back instead of on my way there. I feel confident.”

EDDIE GAVEN: PLAYER AGENT

As Gruenebaum did postgame interviews following the Municipal match, Eddie Gaven had a clear and consistent message that he wanted the world to hear.

“Andy should me making seven figures!” Gaven shouted. (And when I say Gaven shouted, I mean his words were audible for several feet in any direction.)

Gruenebaum could barely start to answer a question when Gaven would shout, “Andy should be making seven figures!”

“Thank you, Eddie,” said Gruenebaum.

“You’re welcome,” Gaven said. “You really should be making seven figures.”

“YES!” exclaimed Gruenebaum’s wife, Lacey.

“My wife would be very happy if that happened,” noted the ever-observant Gruenebaum.

G-BAUM THE NEXT SANDY KOUFAX…OR NOT

Earlier in the week, I learned that Gruenebaum was under consideration to throw out the first pitch at Progressive Field before an upcoming Indians-Royals game. On Saturday, I learned that it didn’t work out. Nevertheless, I thought I would share our conversation from Wednesday, as well as the follow-up from Saturday night.

On Wednesday, I asked Gruenebaum if the Indians, by considering him, were scraping the bottom of the barrel for people to throw out the first pitch.

“It was more me than them scraping the bottom of the barrel,” he said. “I kinda raised my hand for it. How often do you get the opportunity to throw out the first pitch? I’ve never even thought about it. It’s one of those life experiences that you can take away and say, ‘I’ve done that! I’ve thrown out the first pitch…even if it was for a game between the two worst teams in baseball.’” 

(Note: While the Tribe and Royals are in a heated battle for last place in the AL Central, Baltimore, Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Arizona actually have worse records, and the Cubs are right in the mix.)

Gruenebaum said he would focus on throwing a strike, and knowing how particular goalkeepers are over the condition of their goal box, he would be equally respectful of the pitching mound.

“I am not going to pitch from the mound because I have respect for the pitchers,” he said. “It’s their mound, and I don’t want to mess it up. I’ve heard of people doing that, and I don’t want to be that guy. Out of respect for the Indians’ and Royals’ pitchers, I will pitch from in front of the mound, and I will try to get it over the plate.”

(Another note: Crew web guru TJ Ansley, who used to work for the Detroit Tigers, said that if a first pitch person tried to step onto the mound in Detroit, they would get pummeled by an irate groundskeeper. The Tigers had a strict no-mound policy. The Tribe may have one too, but Gruenebaum instinctively knew to be respectful of the mound. As a soccer player, he knows more about baseball etiquette than does Alex Rodriguez.)

Considering that the game would have featured his hometown Kansas City Royals, and that the tradition is that the first pitch person wears the gear of the home team, which in this case would be Cleveland, the Hebrew Hammer had worked out a compromise.

“I am going to wear an Indians shirt or jacket and a Royals hat,” he said. “If they make me take off the hat, I will, but I’m a hometown guy and the Royals are my team. I don’t see it as a threatening issue. Let’s be real here. Both teams stink. But ‘Major League’ is one of the top three movies ever made, so I have mad love for Cleveland as well. I will say that on the record. So I want to represent both teams when I throw out the first pitch. And I am going to throw a strike. I am going to try to make the Sportscenter Top Ten with my first pitch.”

Standing nearby, Jason Garey threw in his two cents.

“He’ll make the Not Top Ten,” Garey said. “He’ll grip it too long and spike it right into the ground. I think Obama or Charles Barkley or someone did that once and made the Not Top Ten.”

Gruenebaum immediately flashed back to that fateful night in 2008 when he watched a free kick from New York goalkeeper Danny Cepero take a mammoth turf bounce over his and into the goal.

“I’ve already made the Sportscenter Not Top Ten,” he said, “so now I am going to try to make the real Top Ten.”

Garey, meanwhile, had drifted into his own fantasy world, where he was throwing out the first pitch.

“I would do it just like George W. Bush after 9/11,” he said. “Bam! Straight strike!”

Gruenebaum shrugged him off.

“Yeah, well I am going to get it over the plate with my Royals hat on. Sportscenter Top Ten.”

In the end, the logistics did not work out. Gruenebaum’s first-pitch / Sportscenter Top Ten dreams will have to wait for another day. I caught up with him on Saturday to see how he was taking it.

“I am little disappointed because I was starting to warm up in the bullpen every day to get ready,” he said on Saturday.

Was Crew goalkeeper coach Vadim Kirilov doubling as his pitching coach during his bullpen sessions?

“No,” he said. “Vadim is from Russia, and Russians don’t even know what baseball is, do they? So I was working with my wife. She knows the game. It’s one of her favorite sports, so we were going to play some catch and see what happens. The thing is, I knew if I threw a strike, the Royals probably would have tried to sign me. I was going to have my agent there with me just in case. Hopefully I’ll get another shot some day.”

GAREY IN THE PLAIN DEALER…AND MAYBE MORE

The Plain Dealer’s esteemed outdoors writer D’Arcy Egan picked up on Jason Garey’s efforts to raise awareness for the vanishing wetlands in his native Louisiana. You can read the article featuring Garey and Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita here:
 http://www.cleveland.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2010/08/browns_fujita_and_garey_of_col.html

In addition to his longtime gig at the Plain Dealer, Egan also hosts a television show called “Outdoors Ohio” on Sportstime Ohio. The popular hunting and fishing show is often co-hosted by Cleveland Browns Pro-Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas.

I had mentioned to Garey that it would be cool if he managed to do is first bit of Lake Erie fishing on Egan’s show. Garey said that Egan has indeed extended an offer to appear on Outdoors Ohio. The problem, once again, is logistics. With the Crew conceivably playing twice per week until mid-October, Garey doesn’t figure to have a true day off anytime soon. With Garey and the Crew focused on reeling in as many trophies as possible, fishing on Lake Erie will have to wait.

DANNY O’S EVIL BEARD IS NO MORE

In a shocking development on Saturday night, almost all remnants of Danny O’Rourke’s once-evil beard had been trimmed and shaved into history. At the start of the season, O’Rourke vowed not to shave his beard all year, eventually growing a Braveheart-like braid under his chin. In time, he relented and trimmed it up, yet still kept its essential evilness. And now….almost clean shaven. What gives?

“I’ve decided to take life a little more seriously,” he said.

Before anyone gets too concerned that Danny O has gone all “Pedro Cerrano from Major League II” on us, let the record show that this comment was made immediately after chasing 12-year-old Nesta Hejduk around the locker room as the Little Dude ran for his life, and immediately before reminding me that the fantasy football draft was in 18 days.

FANTASY FOOTBALL IS ALMOST UPON US

As Danny is fond of pointing out, fantasy football is coming soon. I recently had a chance to talk with defending champ Jason Garey and defending Supporters’ Shield winner Andy Gruenebaum about the upcoming season.

“I am going to go on record right now,” declared Gruenebaum, “and say that I am going to buy the first round of drinks at our draft.”

One could have knocked Garey over with a feather.

“That has never happened in the five years I have known this guy,” he said. “Never. Ever. I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Gruenebaum then went on to tout his own virtues.

“I am the best fantasy football player on this team,” he said. “I won the championship two years ago and the Supporters’ Shield last year. I am the best, but guys will say I’m not the best just because they like to give me a hard time.”

Garey wasn’t buying it.

“When we played in the championship last year,” Garey said, “I had a text from every other single guy in the league telling me to beat Andy. They didn’t care who won as long as he didn’t win.”

To Gruenebaum, that was vindication.

“That’s how you know you’re the best,” he said. “It’s when you wear that bull’s eye year in and year out, and everybody’s is aiming for you.”

I relayed that last theory to O’Rourke in a separate conversation.

“No, it’s not because he is the self-proclaimed alleged best player,” O’Rourke scoffed. “Everyone wants Andy to lose because nobody likes him.”

The season is heating up and the draft hasn’t even taken place yet! As always, the Notebook will continue to monitor the fantasy football smack talk throughout the fall.

CHIMICHURRI CUP 2010

After Thursday’s training session, the Crew held a cookout at Obetz, featuring fine meats marinated in Argentine chimichurri sauces concocted by head coach Robert Warzycha, assistant coach Ricardo Iribarren, and director of team operations Tucker Walther. Tucker, in fact, had concocted two separate chimichurris—one mild and one extra spicy. The four entrants were then voted upon in a blind taste test, with the winner being awarded the immaculately constructed 2010 Chimuchurri Cup.

The result? A four-way tie, meaning Tucker, Robert, and Ricardo will need to work out a three-way custody agreement for THIS thing…

In retrospect, Tucker wishes he had studied the procedural blueprints of some of America’s most revered deliberative institutions, such as the U.S. Supreme Court and American Idol.

“Next time, we will have an odd number of judges,” he declared.

Questions? Comments? Aware that in Salt Lake, their mascot soccer game is merely a lame-o penalty kick shootout instead of a legitimate soccer game like ours is in Columbus? 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.