Crew need better showing to avoid repeat

Columbus trailed 1-0 after semi first leg, were eliminated

COLUMBUS – The Columbus Crew find themselves in a familiar situation. In their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup last year against Real Salt Lake, the Fighting Canaries found themselves trailing 1-0 after the first leg.

After taking a 2-0 lead in the second leg, the Crew collapsed and let up three goals for an aggregate 4-2 loss. 

This year, Columbus trail 1-0 going into the second leg of their conference semifinal matchup at Crew Stadium on Saturday (4 p.m. ET, TeleFutura).

“Hopefully we’ll take care of business this time,” Columbus head coach Robert Warzycha said.

To do so will take a better effort all around. Backup goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum started for the injured William Hesmer and saw a lot of activity in front of him as the Rapids took 15 shots. He was only forced into a save on two of those.

Gruenebaum had a couple of early blips, but was more comfortable as the game wore on and was decisive in snaring a late corner kick through traffic. 

His back line was porous in the first half. The Crew were able to recover well, but not before speedy forward Omar Cummings schooled rookie left back Shaun Francis several times.

“In the first half between him and [center back Andy] Iro a couple of times, there was miscommunication, but in the second half they figured it out,” Warzycha said.

Veteran Gino Padula could spell Francis, but Warzycha has to decide if his experience can overcome a lack of speed in marking Cummings. The Crew’s midfield shared the fault in the inability to contain Cummings and strike partner Conor Casey.  

With goal-scorer Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz winning the 50-50 balls, the Crew left gaping holes through the middle in the opening 45 minutes. Meanwhile, Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Steven Lenhart generated no offense and received little support from wingers Robbie Rogers and Emmanuel Ekpo. 

“Sometimes when you are playing and the other team is doing well, you can’t take away the ball,” Schelotto said.

The Crew’s home record is a mixed bag. They posted a formidable 10-3-2, but in their last four games at Crew Stadium, they were shut out three times before finally exploding for a 3-1 victory against the Philadelphia Union in the Oct. 24 season finale. A similar offensive outburst is just what they need. 

“We know we play different at home,” Schelotto said. “We play offensive, I don’t know why, with a little more confidence.”

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