COLUMBUS, Ohio – Columbus Crew coach Robert Warzycha proved in the offseason that he wasn’t afraid to rattle a few cages in reshaping the roster. True to form, he went against conventional wisdom again last Saturday when he tinkered with a lineup that had put together three straight shutouts.
While he kept the back line intact, Warzycha sent his starting defensive midfielder (Dejan Rusmir) to the bench, moved right midfielder Eddie Gaven to a withdrawn forward position and inserted Dilly Duka in his spot to spark the offense.
The moves worked as the Crew (2-1-2) limited what was the league’s highest-scoring team to two first-half shots on goal and got a 53rd-minute score by Robbie Rogers off the first career assist by Duka for the 1-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City at Crew Stadium.
“We’re trying to field the best position, basically, for everybody where they feel more comfortable,” Warzycha said.
That meant Gaven took over for Emmanuel Ekpo, who went to center midfield while Kevin Burns dropped back to where Rusmir had been playing.
“Last year when we played with [Gaven] as a withdrawn forward he did very well,” Warzycha said.
Burns did well defensively and, like Duka, contributed his first career assist.
The changes didn’t rattle the Crew as they set a club record with their fourth consecutive clean sheet and tied another by keeping the opposition scoreless for 373 minutes.
“The team defending is very organized,” Rogers said. “There’s very good communication. We’re very confident.”
Sporting Kansas City came in averaging 2.67 goals per game but were unable to dent the Crew.
“We really frustrated them in the first half so they couldn’t break us down with the wind,” Hesmer said. “We came out in the first few minutes and set the intensity.”
Designated Player Andres Mendoza did not play Saturday after he also missed the previous match with a groin injury.
Warzycha said he was feeling better but wanted to save the forward for the match at Toronto FC on April 23, although Mendoza went 67 minutes Sunday in the reserve match against the University of Louisville.
A FORTRESS AGAIN
Since a 4-0 defeat to Seattle Sounders FC on Sept. 18, Columbus have five wins and had three scoreless draws at Crew Stadium in eight games overall (including two in the Champions League and one MLS Cup Playoffs match), and have given up two goals.
While going 3-0-2 in the past five regular-season home games they have allowed only one goal – by Philadelphia’s Sebastien Le Toux in the 87th minute of 2010 finale when Gaven replaced an injured Hesmer in goal.
BY THE NUMBERS
43.7 – Average temperature at kickoff for the three MLS home games in 2011.
0 – Goals scored and conceded by the Crew in the first half this season.
0 – Wins this season by the Crew vs. a team that finished with 11 players. Both visiting FC Dallas on April 1 and Sporting KC on Saturday had players ejected. Also, Real Salt Lake had two red-carded in their trip to Crew Stadium for a Champions League match on Feb. 22.