Reaction: Crew dominates first-place Impact in 2-0 home victory
The odds were stacked against the Crew on Saturday.
The Black & Gold were coming off two deflating losses in both MLS and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play and to make matters worse, the team returned to Columbus from its Thursday loss in Chicago at 2:30 a.m. ET on Friday morning after a seven-hour bus ride. On Saturday, the first-place Montreal Impact -- on two weeks of rest -- came to town.
But the Crew didn't lie down at home. Instead, Robert Warzycha's side rallied together for a dominant 2-0 victory behind first-half goals from Matías Sánchez and Dominic Oduro against the Eastern Conference leaders.
Perhaps that seven-hour bus ride provided the magic.
"Even though we had a lot of adversity in Chicago with the game being delayed and a bus ride, I feel like we built even more camaraderie on that trip as well," Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum said. "Maybe there's something to that."
With only one home win to their name so far in 2013 entering Saturday's match, the Black & Gold had nothing less than three points in mind in front of the Crew Stadium faithful to begin a two-match homestand.
"I think we were just determined to go out there and win. I think everyone was in-sync, everybody had it in mind that this was a must-win game," Oduro explained after the match.
"This is the one that we really hope sets the ball rolling. We have Chicago at home next week."
MARSHALL, O'ROURKE AND WILLIAMS BACK IN THE LINEUP
Back from injury, Chad Marshall and Josh Williams started in the center of defense against the Impact, while Danny O'Rourke got his first nod in the starting XI since May 4. The three's integration into the Crew lineup paid off in the end for the Black & Gold.
"Those guys are the kind of players they are for a reason," Gruenebaum said. "It's also a calming influence to have Danny sitting in front of Chad and Josh."
O'Rourke and Sánchez paired well in central midfield. With O'Rourke taking on more responsibility, Sánchez was able to get forward and score his first goal for the Black & Gold -- a sixth minute deflection off an Impact defender and into the net.
"We asked one of the [central] midfielders to join the attack and be closer to the forwards," Warzycha revealed after the match. "Sánchez was first and actually he did very well. He took the shot and luck was on our side."
Added O'Rourke: "Whoever is in there, you have to have a balance and you can't really be flat. One has to go forward, one's got to stay back. It just so happens that I feel more comfortable in a defensive role where I can pick there forward coming up. It just so happens that [Sánchez] got forward and scored his first goal."
Sánchez hopes he can build on his chemistry with O'Rourke in games to come.
"Danny is a player who is always in the right position," the Argentine said. "That helps free me so I can interact on the field a little bit more with Pipa [Higuaín], Bernardo [Anor] and Oduro. I felt very comfortable playing with Danny.
"I hope we can continue to play next to each other and continue on the path of the wins."
For the first time since July 14 of 2012, Bernardo Anor found himself in the starting lineup for a First Team MLS match. The Venezuelan midfielder has spent the last year rehabbing his way back to full strength after suffering a torn ACL.
Head Coach Robert Warzycha had faith in the 25-year-old against the Impact.
"I thought he was the guy for the job tonight and I was right," Warzycha said. "I think he was doing very well."
Anor was happy to return to the field, but the victory made the occasion even sweeter.
"I'm very happy I got to play a full 90 minutes with the First Team," he said.
"It feels great just to be back on the field, my knee is very good. We got the result, I'm very happy."