Takeaway Points: Philadelphia
Though the Crew lost its second straight match, not all was lost in the City of Brotherly Love. Here are three positives to take from Saturday's match against the Union:
1. Finlay and Schoenfeld Earn First Starts
Since joining the Crew, both Ethan Finlay and Aaron Schoenfeld have played in every match during their time in Columbus. However, Saturday marked a milestone in both players' careers as they each made their first career starts.
In 65 minutes, Finlay provided pace on the wing for the Crew. The rookie will have to continue to be stronger on the ball after being knocked around a bit by a physical Union side. Finlay should adapt to the physical nature of MLS pretty quickly as he grew up playing competitive hockey in Minnesota.
Schoenfeld looked solid in his 68 minutes before being subbed off for Emilio Renteria. He had a good look in front of goal in the 22nd minute on a rebound from a corner kick, but his left-footed shot was blocked to keep the rookie from reaching the scoresheet.
Robert Warzycha's choice to start Schoenfeld instead of Renteria was a surprising one. After Schoenfeld's strong performance and Renteria's hat-trick in the reserve game afterward, Warzycha has a tough decision ahead of next Saturday's match against the Houston Dynamo.
2. Defense Holds Strong
A week after allowing four goals a week ago against New York, the Columbus defense responded by limiting the Union attack to only eight attempts on goal Saturday afternoon. Granted, the Union had only registered 11 shots on goal coming into Saturday's match, but the Crew back line needed a sense of redemption from last week's onslaught of Kenny Cooper and Thierry Henry.
Unfortunately for the Crew defense, the stingy performance will be marred by a 1-0 result due to Eric Gehrig's left elbow being in the wrong place at the wrong time, coming into contact with Freddy Adu's cross in the 37th minute to force a penalty. Gabriel Gomez then converted from the spot, chipping Crew 'keeper Andy Gruenebaum.
Columbus will have to build off the positive defensive performance as defenders Carlos Mendes, Julius James, and Danny O'Rourke continue to work their way back from injuries.
3. Vukovic Makes Debut
Left back Nemanja Vukovic made his MLS debut in the 74th minute, coming on for Shaun Francis. The Montenegrin provided an attacking presence from the back in the closing minutes as the Crew went into panic mode, searching for a late equalizer. Vukovic also became the first person other than Kirk Urso to take a corner kick for Columbus.
With more experience, Vukovic will provide increased competition in training for Shaun Francis, something that will surely bring the best out in both players.