COLUMBUS – Crew midfielder Dilly Duka called it “annoying.”
The Columbus player was referring to the way that the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps sought to frustrate his team during a scoreless first half, in which they dominated possession before eventually breaking through for a 2-1 victory.
“Halftime, I came into the locker room very upset because we were definitely possessing it,” Duka said. “At times we broke through on the left but we wanted to put them away in the first half. They barricaded in. It was really annoying.”
The Whitecaps’ strategy was by design.
“We decided to tactically play them the way we did to drop down and let them have the ball and frustrate them a little bit, which we managed to do,” Whitecaps manager Teitur Thordarson said. “They hardly had a good chance in the first 45 minutes.”
Forward Emilio Rentería broke the deadlock when he was tackled by Vancouver goalkeeper Jay Nolly to the left of the goal to set up the PK. He later converted the PK.
The Venezuelan’s third goal of the season for the 2-0 advantage came on a nice slot from about a dozen yards and it was a rarity.
“Normally, I never score with the left,” Rentería said. “This is the first time I’ve scored with the left foot.”
The Crew started the match with a late scratch as rookie left back Rich Balchan, who played every minute of the first six games, fell ill. He was replaced by 28-year-old defender Josh Gardner, who was involved in two key moments of the second half.
Vancouver mounted a comeback when 17-year-old forward Omar Salgado, the first overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, scored his first goal in his first career start in the 69th minute by getting inside on Gardner for a header – the first goal allowed by the Crew in four home games.
“He did well to get over me,” Gardner said. “I couldn’t jump off my back foot. He’s about two feet taller than I am. There wasn’t much I could do.”
Although he came up short on that instance, Gardner came up big four minutes later when he cleared a ball off the goal line in the 73rd minute to preserve the 2-1 victory on Saturday in Crew Stadium. He made the stop on Nizar Khalfan’s close-range attempt after the ball crossed the goal box.
“All I really did was react to it,” said Gardner, who last made an MLS start in 2006 for the LA Galaxy. “The ball came across. I turned and slid. I thought it might have been offside. I did what I could to clear it.”
The Whitecaps pressed the play the rest of the way – William Hesmer made a fine save on Salgado in the 77th – but the Crew held on to improve to 3-0-3 since losing the season opener.