San Jose did in 12 minutes what it took Crew opponents the previous seven matches to do: score three goals.
A barrage of three Earthquakes strikes, beginning in the 50th minute Saturday at Buck Shaw Stadium for a 3-0 San Jose victory, ended the Crew’s seven-game unbeaten streak and equaled the number of goals Columbus had allowed during the 3-0-4 stretch.
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“It opened everybody’s eyes,” Crew coach Robert Warzycha said. “We can’t be that confident, thinking we’re that good. We have to keep working to improve.”
It was a brutal second half for the Crew (3-2-4) that was reminiscent of the season opener at D.C. United, when a goalless halftime score turned into a 3-0 defeat.
The Crew rebounded to post a team-record four straight shutouts, but that type of defensive effort was sorely missing against an Earthquakes squad that had scored seven goals in their first eight games before unleashing on the visitors.
“I did not see that coming — three goals in 12 minutes,” Warzycha said.
Crew rookie left back Rich Balchan had his worst game since his performance against DC, and was victimized on the first two scores. A midfield turnover allowed the Earthquakes (2-4-3) to create a counterattack that left Ryan Johnson open on the left flank.
Balchan lost track of Chris Wondolowski down the middle and the 2010 Golden Boot winner had no trouble putting away his fifth of the season in the 50th minute.
Stephen Lenhart, traded by the Crew to San Jose in January, got revenge when he slipped by Balchan on a corner kick and headed in the ball off the back of teammate Brandon McDonald in the 59th minute.
“We have to make sure we’re marking right in the box,” Warzycha said. “There’s a lot of room for improvement.”
Khari Stephenson completed the scoring with a wicked 25-yarder past William Hesmer.
“The goals they scored were very good,” Warzycha said. “The first was a cross we should have done better on. The second was a great run by Steven and the third was a great shot by Stephenson. Too bad they all happened in the same game.”
The defensive letdown might be considered an aberration.
It was a different story at the other end, where the Crew have scored eight goals and were blanked for the third time in nine matches.
Even though they had six shots on goal, they didn’t come close to scoring until a 35-yard strike in the final minute by Eddie Gaven was pushed away by Jon Busch and substitute forward Tommy Heinemann sent the rebound over the bar.
The Crew even had an extra player for the final 11 minutes after McDonald was ejected for elbowing Heinemann off the ball, but Columbus still could not find any semblance a fluid offense.
Their game could best be summed up by two plays: Robbie Rogers got tangled in his own legs and went down while dribbling into scoring position, and Dilly Duka got free but tripped over the ball.