COLUMBUS, Ohio – Beaten by the best team but unbowed, the Crew now know how many of their opponents felt this season.
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
One of the storylines – other than the obvious battle of the last two unbeatens in MLS – was reality of the Crew’s sometimes ineffectual play in their undefeated season opening. Time after time, coaches from other teams wondered how their side could dominate Columbus on the stat sheet yet the Crew would get the result.
The Crew (6-1-2) were the “other team” on Saturday before a season-high 18,139 folk in Crew Stadium. They outshot Los Angeles 21-3 and enjoyed a 15-0 advantage in corner kicks.
But as LA coach Bruce Arena pointed out, the only numbers that matter are on the scoreboard. And there, the Galaxy had two and the Crew had zero, improving LA’s record to 9-0-2.
“That’s soccer,” Crew midfielder Robbie Rogers said. “There’s been a few games this year we didn’t deserve to win.”
Rogers and defender Chad Marshall returned to the lineup for the first time in three games after not making the final US roster for the World Cup. LA’s Edson Buddle and Landon Donovan did, and their absence probably contributed to the lopsided stats in favor of the Crew.
Yet, Michael Stephens in the 10th minute and Tristan Bowen in the 87th scored their first career goals and Donovan Ricketts had four saves.
“We’re playing better now,” Crew defender Andy Iro said. “If we play like that, no one is going to be able to stop us.
“We’re disappointed because we felt we truly dominated and should have won. At the same time the fans know, you guys know, this is a very, very positive step,” he added. “They sit and counter and they did that well. We’ve got to wise up from that.”
The Crew are willing to file the match away as “just one of those games.”
“Maybe tonight it was one of those nights you can play all night and not score,” Crew defender Gino Padula said. “When you lose a game like this, you don’t feel so bad. You do your best, and we didn’t score.”
There were opportunities, including Iro’s header off the right post in the 76th minute.
“They have good team defending,” he said. “Right now they got lucky; a little bit of poor finishing and a little bit of luck. You can only ride that for so long. Without any disrespect to them, they do defend well. They’re going to get theirs soon enough.”
The irony is that in the Crew’s two previous games, they won with the help of the opponents’ hitting the post four times. Now the Crew were on the other end.
“We created enough chances to win this game,” Crew coach Robert Warzycha said. “We created two in the first half and hit the post in the second half and had 15-0 corners against the best team in MLS. You have to be proud of the team. I am.”
One of the reasons was that LA did a great job of stifling aerial specialist Chad Marshall on the corner kicks.
“I was staying far post and letting Andy and Steve [Lenhart] go near and battle for it,” he said. “It wasn’t our day to score goals.”
That was the prevailing attitude. The Crew play at San Jose on Wednesday and Colorado June 5 with a sense that better days are ahead, even after the loss.
“We’re starting to hit our stride nine games in,” Iro said. “We’ve got games back-to-back on the road. We had that last week [wins vs. New York and Kansas City] and we’ve got to do the same this week.”