When play resumed after the World Cup break, the Columbus Crew hosted D.C. United. At that point, the Crew trailed Los Angeles by 11 points in the race for the Supporters’ Shield. Columbus beat United 2-0 to end a three-game winless streak that night.
The chase was on.
Saturday in RFK Stadium, the Crew once again downed United, thanks to Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s gift goal in the 23rd minute, and the chase was over. The Crew had caught up to the Galaxy.
With the 1-0 victory, Columbus (13-5-5) are now tied with the Galaxy at 44 points with seven matches left to play, including a showdown next Saturday at the Home Depot Center.
“We felt if we kept doing things the right way the wins would come eventually and hopefully we’d catch up,” goalkeeper William Hesmer said.
Los Angeles have come down to earth after a hot start. The Crew have not been in top form either as they jump from league play to the CONCACAF Champions and the US Open Cup. However, they have gotten results.
The game with DC, a rematch if Wednesday’s Open semifinal won 2-1 in overtime by the Crew on a Schelotto penalty kick, was tough to watch in stretches because of the weariness of the teams. DC played for the third time in seven days while the Crew had their fourth match in 12 days.
“It was kind of ugly at times, but we did what needed to do, especially away from home,” midfielder Kevin Burns said.
Hesmer had little to do once the Crew figured out how to negate teen dynamo Andy Najar.
“The team defending was incredible from top to bottom,” Hesmer said. “They did a tremendous job. They limited their chances to very few and far between. We didn’t have a lot of possession but we were very hard to break down.”
The keeper's 10th shutout of the season ties the mark he first set in 2008 and shares with Jon Busch (2004).
“I don’t think about it, just trying to get three points,” Hesmer said.
The Crew secured the win when DC rookie goalkeeper Bill Hamid mis-handled a back pass and Barros Schelotto had an easy shot for his seventh goal of the season.
“The ball was coming to the goalie,” Barros Schelotto said. “I went to pressure him. I don’t know what happened with him. He couldn’t put it away. I saw the ball and scored.”
Barros Schelotto went 120 minutes Wednesday and was pulled in stoppage time Saturday as Peruvian forward Andres Mendoza made his MLS debut. Some may have questioned playing the 37-year-old Schelotto twice in four days but he has shown to be in excellent condition and actually had the schedule in his favor.
With no midweek game upcoming next week for the first time in a month, coach Robert Warzycha had said earlier in the week that he was leaning toward staying with as many regulars as possible for Saturday’s match.
“The players were helping each other on the field,” he said. “We were compact and we pressured them pretty high. I liked the effort and I’m very proud of the team.”
However, there was a negative note when the hard luck season continued for left back Gino Padula. He departed in the 30th minute with a sprained left ankle. It was Wednesday in the Open Cup semifinal when he played for the first time since July 14 after recovering from a left knee injury.
Rookie Shaun Francis took his spot and clamped down the speedy Najar so much that the DC youngster attacked from the opposite side in the second half.
“We did a very good job on Najar in the second half,” Warzycha said. “Shaun did a very good job against him.”
Warzycha didn’t make a lot of changes from Wednesday’s lineup but he moved Danny O'Rourke out of his midfield spot to right back for Frankie Hejduk.
Rookie Dilly Duka from Rutgers made just his second MLS appearance and first start on the left wing and Burns also got his initial start of the season in his third game as a replacement for the suspended Adam Moffat.