For the second match in a row, “gritty not pretty” was the Crew’s mantra for keeping their unbeaten streak alive.
The Seattle Sounders started out on their own turf Saturday like they were filled with eight cups of high-octane coffee, while the Crew looked as though they were trying to shake themselves from a deep sleep.
That Seattle scored just one goal in the first half was the result of their own bad luck, a couple of fine saves by William Hesmer and a reorganization by the Crew. Steven Lenhart scored his first goal of the season just before the break en route to the 1-1 final.
Though the Crew were more composed in the second half, their so-so play has now reached 180 minutes, which includes a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake on April 24.
“That’s soccer,” midfielder Brian Carroll said. “Sometimes the team that doesn’t play the best overall still manages to get something out of the game. That was the case [Saturday], although I thought we played the better second half.”
CHANGE TO BELIEVE IN: Seattle’s 4-4-3 wreaked havoc from the onset and exposed the Crew’s lack of speed in the back. Steve Zakuani needed only four minutes to score after running past Frankie Hejduk and his defensive cohorts as they signaled for an offside call.
“We could have adjusted a bit quicker to what they were doing,” Carroll said.
Andy Iro and Eric Brunner were beaten several times, and Danny O’Rourke was kept busy trying to close the gaps. Also, Seattle got through the midfield way too easily in the opening 45 minutes.
Right winger Eddie Gaven switched positions with center midfielder Adam Moffat as an offensive tactic, but the move also stabilized the defense because the Crew had more of the ball after halftime.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Hejduk said. “We made some adjustments and figured them out. They died a little bit on the second half. We figured how to open up the field. We kept possession much better in the second half and made them do most of the running.”
MAKING A POINT: The Crew won their second straight Supporters’ Shield last season by a single point ahead of Los Angeles and Houston, so coach Robert Warzycha understood how crucial it was to take something out of Seattle.
“They have a good team and you’re playing in front of 37,000 people; the atmosphere was electric,” he said. “They started the game very well. They scored early and carried the momentum but going 1-1 into halftime was very important.”
He is also pleased with the 2-0-2 start, despite the dearth of quality play for extended periods.
“We won two games at home and tied two on the road,” he said. “I’m happy where we are right now.”
DANNY BOY: O’Rourke’s second red card of the season in the 85th minute ensured the Crew's backline will have a different look again when they host New England on Saturday. Right back Hejduk and center back Iro are the only defenders to start every game. O’Rourke was at left back for the first, second and fourth games. Gino Padula filled in when O’Rourke served his first suspension.
Padula did not travel to Seattle because of a knee injury, so Jed Zayner may get the start Saturday.
“Danny’s going to be missed, but whoever takes his place will step in and get the done job,” Hejduk said.
Brunner has started three of four in the middle, while partner Chad Marshall has played only once because of reoccurring hamstring problems.
MORE THAN A GAME: The Crew plays at Ohio State on Tuesday in the ninth annual Connor Senn Memorial Match to raise funds for the scholarship named after the OSU player who collapsed during a match in September, 2001, and died later that night from a congenital heart defect.
Ex-Buckeye Brunner has played for and against the Crew in the match, and Senn was O’Rourke’s best friend.
A NUMBER OF THINGS: Expect a shutout Saturday against New England. Three straight games—and four of the past five meetings—against the Revs have ended 1-0, with each side winning twice. The other game was 4-0 Crew victory. Prior to that, the teams combined for 15 goals (eight by the Crew) … This is the first time since winning at New York and New England in 2003 that the Crew are unbeaten in their initial two road games.