COLUMBUS – Early leads have been so uncommon for the Crew this season that when Guillermo Barros Schelotto converted a penalty kick in the 6th minute Saturday, it was almost as if the team stopped to admire the result on the scoreboard for the next 40 minutes.
“It doesn’t happen often, getting the lead early so I don’t know if we knew what we were doing,” midfielder Adam Moffat said. “We started great, got that goal and had good intensity then we switched it off.”
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Colorado took over and got the equalizer from Pablo Mastroeni in the first minute of stoppage time before the break and suddenly the Crew knew it was on the brink of a long night before 16,063 soaked fans in Crew Stadium.
“It (ticked) us off,” forward Jason Garey said of the Rapids’ score.
Garey woke the Crew from their slumber with a goal in the 53rd minute and Steven Lenhart added an insurance tally in the 80th for a 3-1 victory.
The prevailing story, though, was how the Crew needed a wakeup call to put away a team that had just one win in nine games since beating Columbus 1-0 at home on June 5.
“There was good composure (at the start),” Crew coach Robert Warzycha said. “I don’t remember them touching the ball the first five minutes. Because we were pressing for the goal, we got rewarded.
“After that we stopped playing basically. Every time we won the ball we were resting. They had some momentum,” he said. “The second half was completely different. We were very organized and aggressive and we didn’t allow them to do much.”
[inline_node:316647]Schelotto got the scoring started, but Eddie Gaven and Emmanuel Ekpo did the work. Ekpo, coming off a fine outing in the CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday when he scored in the victory over Municipal, sprung Gaven inside the penalty area before the Crew midfielder was fouled by goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
Schelotto promptly scored for the third time in four tries from the spot this season.
“We played so much better in the second half,” Garey said. “We talked about keeping the ball on the ground and using the passing we’re good at. Once we started doing that we started taking over the game.
“It was disappointing to give (Mastroeni’s goal) right before halftime, but I thought we came out with the right attitude,” he said.
Garey made it 2-1 when he intercepted a headed back pass by Colorado defender Marvell Wynne. The ball bounced once before a charging Pickens could get to it and Garey had his second goal of the season.
“As a forward you want to be ready for anything. You want to be opportunistic,” he said. “It took a weird deflection off their defender. I saw the goalie coming out. I knew I was going to get hit but tried to get it under him. It was a good time for us. We needed to get a goal there because it’s one of those times if you don’t get a goal you get frustrated.”
Lenhart entered for Garey in the 77th minute and netted his fifth goal three minutes later. Schelotto’s free kick was headed at the far post by Chad Marshall back to Lenhart.
“It was a really good pass by Chad to keep it my head-high,” he said. “I didn’t have to do anything but run into it.”
Lenhart has reverted, unwittingly, to the super sub role he had his first season in 2008.
His last three goals, including two at Philadelphia on Aug. 5, have come as a substitute for Garey.
“If I’m on the field I’m going to do what I have to do whether it’s off the bench or starting,” Lenhart said.
He may get the start Tuesday when the Crew travel to Mexico to play Santos Laguna in group play of the CCL. The Crew are expected to field many of their reserves with a league match at home next Saturday against FC Dallas, although defender Frankie Hejduk will serve a suspension for points accumulation after earning a yellow card on Saturday night.