COLUMBUS, Ohio – Since the league has decided that the rest of the season will still be played out despite Real Salt Lake’s celebrating their dominant 2-0 victory Saturday over Columbus as if another title had been won, the Crew must swallow their pride and carry on.
WATCH: HIGHLIGHTS: RSL 2, CLB 0
Playing listless and undisciplined, the short-handed Crew were humbled by a team hell-bent on proving their playoff victories over the Crew and a subsequent MLS Cup title last season were not flukes.
Also, they complained incessantly about comments earlier this year by Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer about how the Supporters' Shield-winning Columbus were the real champs, not RSL.
Yes, the Crew had the best regular-season record the past two years and, yes, RSL won the championship despite a losing record.
Nonetheless, stoked by the ire of Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis and a video featuring Hesmer that was shown to the fans before the game, RSL came out smoking—and the Crew fell into the trap with shockingly lackadaisical play.
Javier Morales scored off a short corner in the 11th minute when no one bothered to cover him.
“We should have reacted quicker,” coach Robert Warzycha said. “It was a lack of concentration.”
“We were asleep on the corner kick,” Hesmer said. “Undisciplined and our heads down and not paying attention. That’s as simple as it gets. You can’t turn it off. Ninety minutes, your brain always has to be active.”
RSL had two more great chances before the break, but defender Frankie Hejduk cleared a shot off the line, and Robbie Findley missed an open net from 10 yards by 10 yards.
The Crew allowed Real Salt Lake to run freely through the midfield in the first half.
“We had a plan to maybe sit in a little bit more and defend them about the halfway line,” Hesmer said. “That doesn’t mean you just don’t play defense, that you go half-assed and let them dictate the game. Once they cross that line the pressure’s got to be there.”
Morales put the game away with a free kick in the 60th that shouldn’t have happened. Former Crew man Ned Grabavoy dribbled near the top of the box but had his path blocked by two Columbus players. That didn’t stop the trailing Eric Brunner from committing a foul.
“There was no reason to come up from behind,” Warzycha said. “Ned was smart enough to feel the pressure and draw the free kick.”
“We weren’t intelligent at all,” Hesmer said. “We played borderline dumb.”
With injuries and illness depriving the Crew of five starters, Warzycha’s options were limited when he looked down the bench that had just six reserves. Dilly Duka, the team’s first draft pick this season, made his MLS debut in the 75th minute, subbing for leading scorer Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
“I admire [Schelotto]," Duka said. "You like to see him play, and you’d like to play with him as well. I’m happy I got the time. I’m not happy with the result. In that situation you just want to out and run and make it hard for the other team."
Said Warzycha: “It’s tough to come into the game and try to change the game, but I thought he would be a little more aggressive than Guillermo and he would get the ball and run at people."
Warzycha expects Eddie Gaven (concussion) and Andy Iro (knee) to be available Wednesday when the Crew host Municipal of Guatemala in the first group stage match of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Brian Carroll (stomach virus) did not train Monday and is doubtful. Gino Padula (knee) is questionable and Robbie Rogers (knee) is out.