SANDY, Utah — After Tuesday night’s 4-1 defeat at the hands of Real Salt Lake, the Columbus Crew admit they weren’t up to par on the night.
A poor first half and egregious defensive lapses led to a 2-0 halftime deficit. However, after pulling one back early in the second half, the Crew feel they were hard done by a missed call on RSL’s third strike in the 77th minute. The Crew claim there was a blatant offside by Fabian Espindola not called by the officials.
“At 2-1, from there we could have tied it,” Crew forward Andres Mendoza told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “Bad luck on the third goal. We still can’t understand it. The linesman was just standing there.”
Crew players say that Espindola, who was clearly in an offside position, was actively participating on the play since he was in the trajectory of the shot by RSL’s Javier Morales.
“[Espindola] stepped over the ball and he was offside,” Crew captain Andy Iro said. “Whether or not he blinded the goalkeeper, I thought that he definitely interfered with the goal. That third goal killed us and from there it was good night.”
The recriminations on the third goal do not make up for what the team admits was a poor first half performance.
“It seems we would win it [the ball] and lose it, win it and lose it and they [RSL] would send wave after wave at us,” midfielder Eddie Gaven said. “It was something we did better to start off the second half but unfortunately it was too little, too late at that point.”
Aside from the lack of possession in the first half, the Crew allowed two identical goals on plays which saw an RSL player attack a gap on the left side of the Columbus back line. The defenders were slow to react, seemingly looking to play the offside trap.
“You can’t play offside in your 18—that’s a basic thing, especially when you’re playing against a good team,” manager Robert Warzycha said. “It’s more on us understanding how to play defensively, how to shift and how to react. . . . We have new players in the back four and we have to learn how to adjust.”
“The whole point of the back four is you stay compact and make them play wide and I think they came through us a little too easily,” Iro said. “They have great passers of the ball and were able to find those pockets and they punished us. You go two goals down at halftime here you’re asking for a lot.”
Warzycha and his players saluted a Real Salt Lake side that, in the end, was good enough to capitalize on the Crew’s mistakes. However, the manager bemoaned missing four starters (Chad Marshall, Danny O’Rourke, Shawn Francis and William Hesmer) and having too little time to incorporate the new faces in the lineup (Jeff Cunningham, Sebastian Miranda, Rich Balchan and Josh Gardner).
Regardless of the result on Tuesday night, the Crew emerge from the two-leg quarterfinal series feeling there is a good base to build from.
“I am very confident that we have the right group here that can do very well this year,” Gaven said. “It’s still early in the season and we have to build off of this.”