COLUMBUS, Ohio – For a team that just saw its season come crashing down in the sport’s cruelest of endings — on the final kick of a PK shootout — the Columbus Crew locker room was not nearly as dejected as one might imagine.
After suffering postseason elimination at the hands of the Colorado Rapids, the heads weren’t hanging and the Crew spoke like a team that was almost in denial of the verdict on the field on Saturday night.
“I think we are better than Colorado, but they got to the second round,” said the Crew’s Argentine legend Guillermo Barros Schelotto. “Congratulations to them, but I feel we are better.
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“We played much better than them in the 120 minutes. We had to win the game. I know they had a lot of chances in the first game in Colorado, but not like we had today.”
The reality of what had transpired was clearly very different from the Columbus perspective. While he surely recognized that the Rapids did in fact advance, Schelotto refused to acknowledge the fact that Colorado was the better team in both the first leg and second leg.
[inline_node:322765]The Argentine and teammate Robbie Rogers cited the many opportunities the Crew failed to convert during the second leg in Columbus: the post struck by Eddie Gaven, the goal line clearance, the Andres Mendoza breakaway, the opportunity that fell to Frankie Hejduk and the Kevin Burns shot that missed wide.
Schelotto said the Rapids “had luck.”
The Crew are a proud team, which has tasted much success in recent seasons with an MLS Cup title and Supporters Shield victories. The trophyless season of 2010 has turned out to be a difficult one to stomach.
“On penalties, sometimes the better team is not going to win because there is a lot of pressure to take penalties,” Crew manager Robert Warzycha said. “They did very well. They scored five and Andy [Grunenbaum] was very close to saving one or two … Overall as a team and as a game we created more chances than them.”
Only winger Eddie Gaven admitted that the Crew “weren’t playing great” in the second leg.
WATCH: Gaven talks postgame
The rest of the squad preferred to concentrate on the successes of the 2010 campaign. The regular season points total, the MLS Cup Playoffs berth, the final of the US Open Cup and the qualification to the CONCACAF Champions league quarterfinals.
It's almost as if the penalty kick shootout negated the grand plans that the Crew had in mind for the end of the 2010 campaign.
“If we would’ve moved on [vs. Colorado], look out,” goalkeeper Andy Grunenbaum said. “I thought we could’ve taken the league by storm … It’s weird to walk way losing after you’ve won the game.”
In the sports world, usually losers are quick to tip their cap to the other team and recognize the opposition’s performance. Rogers and the Crew were not as willing to dish out the kudos to the Rapids.
When asked whether the better team had advanced in this series, Rogers said, "I can’t answer that right now.”