COLUMBUS – The first order of blame for the Crew’s 4-1 home loss to New York on Saturday would appear to be the backline. The unit that somehow forgot how good Kenny Cooper and Thierry Henry – who scored two goals apiece – could be, given just a sliver of an opportunity.
Yes, Eric Gehrig got manhandled by the bigger and more experienced Cooper on the first goal and Sebastian Miranda made several egregious decisions in letting Henry slip past him on the third.
Sure, Chad Marshall, in his 200th career start for the Columbus, was under siege all game while Shaun Francis was a step slower than Dane Richards, and goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum’s bid for a third consecutive shutout ended in the third minute.
But the Red Bulls wouldn’t have been as lively if not for weak defending further up the field. The Crew simply allowed them too much time and space down the flanks while doing nothing in the first half to clog the middle.
“We didn’t get pressure to them at all,” Marshall said afterward. “They could do whatever they wanted to and we had nothing going offensively.”
First-year defensive midfielder Kirk Urso got some serious on-the-job training that will pay off down the road, but the match was one that could have used the veteran savvy of someone such as the injured Danny O’Rourke.
Coach Robert Warzycha said “rookie mistakes” on the defensive side led to the first two goals. Of course, he often talks in generalities so he might have included Gehrig and left midfielder Bernardo Anor, second-year pros with limited minutes, so as not to single out Urso.
Anor is still considered a defensive liability but Eddie Gaven on the other wing was also subpar and both were replaced in the second half by Dilly Duka and rookie Ethan Finlay.
“They brought some energy,” Warzycha said of the substitutes.
While Duka and Finlay provided a spark, their performances have to be kept in perspective because the Red Bulls slacked the final 45 minutes with a 3-0 lead. New York’s level dropped and, although the Crew turned it up, they were continually frustrated by a sterling performance from RBNY 'keeper Ryan Meara.
Columbus finally got on the board in the 89th minute when Urso’s corner kick found Marshall’s head, but the Red Bulls decided to crank their offense again and a minute later Henry was on the board a second time
Offense Needs Work, Too
The ease in which Henry scored has to be frustrating for the Crew - especially after watching forward Emilio Renteria squander multiple chances to remain goalless for the season. Olman Vargas, meanwhile, had some very nice passing sequences, but missed an open header early which could have brought his team back into the game.
Technical director Brian Bliss is briefly away assisting the US Under-20 coaching staff, but he’s surely using his free time to find the team’s next Designated Player. Through four games the Crew (2-2-0) have only scored four goals, so defense is not the only problem they need to solve before Saturday’s match at Philadelphia (3:30 pm ET; NBC Sports Network).