Birchall's contribution for Crew more than a matchwinner
A good week got even better for Crew midfielder Chris Birchall on Saturday. It didn’t even matter that his recently arrived family wasn’t at Crew Stadium to see him score in the 1-0 victory against D.C. United.
Birchall signed with the Crew on May 7 after three seasons with Los Angeles but his wife Lucy, whom he married June 9 in their native England, and 3-year-old son Ashley didn’t join him in Columbus until Thursday.
“They’re still a bit jet lagged,” Birchall said. “They watched the game on the TV. My little boy is still getting used to the time difference.”
They missed being in person to see the midfielder’s second career MLS goal, which came in the 46th minute off a pass from Jairo Arrieta, who in his second Crew game earned his first assist. Birchall, playing in his favored center-midfield spot rather than outside as has been the case recently, got the pass in stride and beat goalkeeper Joe Willis with a left-footed slot from 10 yards.
“As (Arrieta) turned inside I noticed no one was going to trap me,” Birchall said. “He spotted me out of the corner of his eye and played a great ball. From there it was trying to take a good first touch and seeing the keeper come out. I tried to drill it under him, really.”
Birchall has played six matches and started five for the Crew.
“He’s a box-to-box guy for us,” defender Josh Williams said. “He’s someone who links passes and is always going to put in the hard work. For him to get the goal he deserves it for all the hard work he puts in.”
The Crew (7-7-4) broke a two-game losing streak with the victory. Head coach Robert Warzycha deployed his side in an aggressive 4-2-3-1 formation, which had Eddie Gaven, Justin Meram and Dilly Duka playing beneath Arrieta.
“Arrieta did a very good job holding the ball for us,” Warzycha said. “That’s why Dilly or Meram were a little more effective because they were higher on the field. We also had some good combinations in the middle. Cole Grossman and Birchall, especially in the first half, there were some very good sequences.”
Andy Gruenebaum made three saves and was aided by the left post on a shot from Chris Korb in the 88th minute but insisted there was no added satisfaction in his seventh shutout in his first game since D.C. coach Ben Olsen did not pick him for the MLS All-Star Game.
“They’re a great team. He’s a great coach. He was a great player,” Gruenebaum said. “There’s nothing there. The only motivation was to beat them.”