OBETZ, Ohio – Former college football coach and current ESPN talking head Lou Holtz was famous for his “Aw shucks, we’re just not any good” routine as his Notre Dame teams steamrolled opponents in the days when the Irish were feared.
You can hear a bit of that “Holtzism” when the Crew talks about their play while compiling a 6-0-2 record, but for the most part it’s true—the team is not outplaying anybody.
On a steamy Sunday afternoon at Kansas City, the Crew managed to survive another test—although they had an excuse for their tepid performance because they were playing for a second time in four days.
A 1-0 victory courtesy of an Emilio Renteria goal once again had the Crew wondering how it happened.
They were outshot 17-8 and the Wizards had six of the eight shots on goal while the Crew looked unsettled on the narrow pitch and were whistled offside seven times.
“The field is small," goalkeeper William Hesmer said. “It made for a kind of ugly game. That’s been our style and how we’ve played so far this year. We were up for the battle.”
The Crew were also on the defensive Thursday at New York, yet took over first in the Eastern Conference with a 3-1 victory. Apparently, bunkering in front of the goal and converting on their few opportunities is en vogue for the Crew.
“We haven’t been playing very well,” defender Jed Zayner said. “Other teams have been having the better of the play and dominating possession, but we’re limiting teams to outside shots. When we get the ball, we attack with numbers—and when we get set pieces, we capitalize.”
The Crew had their first two goals off corner kicks in the past two games to counter the absence of a good combination game.
“That’s what a veteran team that’s been playing together a long time does,” Zayner said. “During the season you’re going to have your tough times. The key is when you’re having your tough times you’re getting results. That’s what we’re doing. I can’t wait until we start pinging the ball around these teams and start getting larger results.”
The next opportunity is Saturday when unbeaten Los Angeles (8-0-2) visit Crew Stadium.
THERE’S A WAY: Hesmer’s intensity is a reason he set the Crew’s career shutout record with his 26th vs. the Wizards, so it took him a while to unwind and appreciate the accomplishment after the match.
After talking to MLSsoccer.com, he phoned an hour later to say he forgot to mention goalkeeper coach Vadim Kirillov.
“He’s been a big part of my success,” Hesmer said. “Vadim’s a reason why I have the record.”
Kirillov and Hesmer joined the Crew in 2007.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Defenders Danny O’Rourke (quadriceps) and Frankie Hejduk (hamstring) and midfielder Brian Carroll (ankle) are questionable for Saturday’s match.
If rumors are true after the 23-man U.S. roster is announced this week, then midfielder Robbie Rogers and defender Chad Marshall could return by Saturday to fortify the troops. However, neither plays the same positions as the injured trio.
JED IS DEAD: After playing only 39 minutes through six games, Zayner went the final 33 at New York on Thursday and the full match Sunday.
When asked immediately after the KC match what it was like to contribute to two wins in four days he said, “It’s a great feeling, especially when you can’t feel anything else in your body. I’m dead tired. I haven’t been playing much. That and the heat and the humidity–I’m not feeling a whole lot right now.”
A NUMBER OF THINGS: The 6-0-2 start betters the 6-1-1 mark after eight games in 2008 when the Crew went on to win the MLS Cup… Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s assist Sunday was the 35th of his career and moves him to within two of fourth-place Brian Maisonneuve on the Crew all-time list… At 2-0-2, this is the first time the Crew have been unbeaten after their first four road games.