Holding serve at home priority number one

Marshall wants to bring back "Fort Columbus" for home stretch

Chad Marshall

Photo Credit: 
Jamie Sabau - Getty Images

Holding serve at home is, as always, the key to making the MLS Cup playoffs.

The Crew are doing their part, trying to make their home ground “Fort
Columbus” once again by losing once in 12 games heading into an
important Eastern Conference showdown against Philadelphia on Saturday
(7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).

Frankie Hejduk would be proud. The former Crew captain, now with the LA
Galaxy, stressed to his teammates the importance of getting maximum
points at Crew Stadium.

“Like Frankie would always say, we have to make this our fortress,” midfielder Robbie Rogers said.

The Crew did just that in 2008 when they won the Supporters’ Shield and
MLS Cup double, and the following season when they earned their second
straight Shield.

At one stretch, they reeled off a 22-game regular-season unbeaten run
at Crew Stadium, setting a league mark that has since been eclipsed by
Real Salt Lake. The Crew were a combined 20-4-6 at home over those two
years and a respectable — but not intimidating — 10-3-2 last season.

After beating New England 3-1 last Saturday, the Crew are 7-1-4 this
year in the friendly confines and have outscored opponents 19-9.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on getting three points as much as we
can at home,” current captain Chad Marshall said. “We’ve been really
good here the last four years. Even though we have 17 new guys this year
that’s still a mainstay for our team.”

The Crew (10-7-7, 37 points), who own a three-point lead atop the
conference over Philadelphia, have not made it easy on themselves at
home: They have trailed 1-0 in six of the games although they rallied
for a 3-1-2 record in those contests.

Despite two scoreless games and a 1-0 loss to Chicago on June 12 at
Crew Stadium this season, Columbus have shown some offensive punch when
playing in front of the home fans. They scored three times in the final
36 minutes against the Revolution and overcame an early deficit to beat
Colorado 4-1 on June 26.

“We are confident because we are creating chances and we have all of
the stadium behind us,” coach Robert Warzycha said. “It’s tough for any
team to come here to play. That’s what we’re trying to do. What’s the
outcome going to be Saturday? I don’t know, but we feel very confident
at home.”

Rogers said that attitude is steeled by recent performances before their fans.

“We’ve been playing a more attractive style of soccer,” he said. “The
team feels we’re going to win all our home games. That’s a good
feeling.”

He’d prefer Saturday that the Crew jump to the lead like they did at
Real Salt Lake on July 30 when they netted the only two goals of the
match in the first 10 minutes.

“We were relaxed and played well the rest of the half, then we kind of
defended and counterattacked,” Rogers said. “I’d much rather play like
that. Hopefully we can do that this weekend.”