The Crew partied like it was 2009 in defeating New England 3-2 on Saturday.
Yes, it took a rare Robbie Rogers goal in stoppage time to defeat a tired, short-handed team that had players forced into unfamiliar positions, but the Crew of the previous two matches would not have been able to pull off the late goal to remain unbeaten.
A lackluster win against Real Salt Lake and a cautious tie at Seattle left the Crew wondering what had happened to the crisp passing, sharp cuts and daring breaks toward goal.
Those elements, which helped the Crew win the MLS Cup in 2008 and claim a second straight Supporters’ Shield last year, returned just in time to defeat the Revolution.
“The second half [Saturday] showed the signs of the team we had in 2008 and 2009, when we had our best games because we were creating chances and we’re creative,” Crew head coach Robert Warzcha said.
He had a simple explanation for the Crew’s ineffective attack—a lack of games. The Crew had a pair of bye weeks and played only two games in April, but they have now played three Saturdays in a row.
“We’re starting to get into a rhythm,” he said. “The bye week after Dallas [on April 10] helped us get on our feet because we were nursing some injuries but from the rhythm standpoint that didn’t help.”
Goalkeeper William Hesmer was glad the Crew, after scoring two goals in the previous two games, had their best output of the young season. His misplay of a Zak Boggs shot in the 29th minute gave New England a 1-0 lead.
“We’re still finding our rhythm,” Hesmer said. “It took us a whole half to start playing at Seattle. [On Saturday] it took us about 20-25 minutes to start playing and putting passes together.
“It’s been tough,” he said of the bye weeks. “You try to simulate as much as you can whether it be a college game or 11 v. 11 but it’s not the same thing. You need to be playing games and getting out here week in and week out.
“Unfortunately, our two [byes] came early, and we’re going to be stuck with a busy, busy late summer and early fall.”
There’s something about falling behind that snaps the Crew into action. They have a win and two ties after allowing the first goal this season.
“We never gave up hope,” midfielder Eddie Gaven said.
In the past three seasons the Crew is 7-13-10 when the opponent scores first.
Sergio Herrera made his long-awaited debut as a 90th minute replacement for Steven Lenhart. The Colombian forward was signed in February but sat through two Champions League matches and four league games in part because the situations weren’t right for him – i.e., trying to protect a lead or tie.
The score was 2-2 Saturday when Warzycha went to the bench because wanted to go for the win at home.
“The last sub, everybody was probably scratching their head, [wondering] 'Why am I taking the tallest forward off the field and putting Herrera on?'” he said. “I was trying to help the team. Stevie was getting chances, but for some reason he wasn’t finishing. I thought somebody in his place would get lucky.”
Herrera’s first touch came five seconds after he entered when he settled a poor goal kick by Preston Burpo on the attacking side of the center circle. He dribbled four times then dished a tentative pass on his left to Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who serviced a ball to Jason Garey for a header.
As Garey’s shot was heading toward the goal, Herrera raced in but was pushed across the goal line by Revs defender Darrius Barnes. Barnes then saved a goal, only to see his clearance go to Rogers for the decisive shot. Herrera was parked in the back netting when Rogers scored.
The week ahead
Tuesday is a big day because national team coach Bob Bradley will announce the preliminary 30-man U.S. World Cup roster before it is later pared down to the final 23.
Rogers and defenders Frankie Hejduk and Chad Marshall have outside chances of being selected. Midfielder Duncan Oughton was left off the 23-man New Zealand roster announced Monday.
A number of things
Rogers’ winner was the fifth of his career to move him into a 10th-place tie with current teammate Jason Garey on the Crew all-time list and is one more than Warzycha had in his seven-year stint with the club… While the Crew (3-0-2, 11 points) had never before been unbeaten after five games the 1998 and 2008 teams were 4-1 (12 points).