COLUMBUS, Ohio – No one was saying Saturday’s 2-0 win over the Thierry Henry-less New York Red Bulls was the Crew's best game of the season, but the results speak for themselves.
The standard bearer had been a 2-0 defeat to the visiting Los Angeles Galaxy on May 29 when the Crew had dominated the match. Even Wednesday’s 1-0 home loss to Kansas City was dismissed because the players thought the effort was there.
It’s been the same story all season: Tallying wins early in the year despite not playing well, followed by better performances without the results.
That’s why beating the Red Bulls behind goals from Emilio Renteria and Brian Carroll was different. Finally, the Crew put it all together for one game as Henry watched from a Crew Stadium suite.
“We found the goals," forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto said. "They didn't have opportunities to score. We controlled the game for 90 minutes.”
Columbus (9-3-4, 31 points) increased their lead in the Eastern Conference to five points over the Red Bulls (8-6-2, 26).
It played out similar to the Crew’s 3-1 win at Red Bull Arena on May 20 when Columbus moved into first. The Crew was simply better in each game.
“A lot of guys on our team had good games,” Carroll said. “Whenever we can get that, we should look forward to getting good results.’
He said the combination of facing a threat to their conference lead and redemption for the loss to the Wizards made for an energized game, especially with several lineup changes.
“You throw in some fresh legs and a little more focus and intensity, and good things can happen,” Carroll said. “It was a good overall team win. We needed one after the loss to KC.”
The only negative was the ejection of captain Frankie Hejduk in 89th minute. His hard, late challenge to Carl Robinson was met with a kick from the midfielder. Hejduk retaliated with a kick of his own and was ejected, while Robinson escaped without a booking.
Otherwise, it was the Crew’s night from the start.
“We played one of the best games” coach Robert Warzycha said. “The players responded very well. As a team we played very well.
“It’s not like we go in with a different attitude to play Kansas City or LA or other teams,” he added. “We actually played very good soccer against those teams but (for) the outcome, we lost 1-0, 2-0, but I liked the soccer.”
Warzycha started Renteria for the third time this season—but for the first time at forward after experimenting with him on the right flank. Renteria scored his first MLS goal of the season in the first meeting with the Red Bulls, and he became a matador of sorts by punishing New York again in the 20th minute by finishing a shot from 17 yards after taking a pass from Schelotto.
“I keep scoring against New York, so we have to keep playing them,” Renteria said.
Carroll started the sequence by stealing the ball from Juan Pablo Angel at midfield and then linking with Moffat, who found Schelotto on the attack. Schelotto credits Renteria with making a good run.
“I couldn’t find him," Schelotto said. "He showed me the pass."
Carroll added an insurance goal with a nifty one-timer in the 48th minute for his first goal in 23 months. He later left the match with a right ankle injury that did not appear to be serious.
“It was certainly fun,” Carroll said. “The team played great tonight. It was good to be part of that and to get a shot on goal. I tried to keep it on frame and see if good things happen.”
Warzycha said he always fears a meltdown with a two-goal lead, but it didn’t happen—and the Crew retained the top spot in the East.
“What I was happy about today was the composure,” he said. “Everybody knew what work to do and where to go defensively and offensively. I’m very pleased.”