The Black & Gold got a much-needed three points with a victory over a 10-man FC Dallas side on Saturday. Here are three things to take from the Crew's first victory in six matches:
1. MIRANDA MAGIC
In the days leading up to the match, Crew head coach Robert Warzycha emphasized the importance of set pieces against FC Dallas.
"The one thing we have to have is good service," Warzycha said on Thursday. "We worked today a lot on set pieces and hopefully we can surprise them on one or two."
Pehaps it was a bit of a premonition as Sebastian Miranda's 72nd minute header snapped into the lower left corner of the goal past Dallas 'keeper Chris Seitz from the top of the box.
In his 10+ year professional career, Miranda had scored six goals coming into Saturday's showdown with FC Dallas. However, none of the those tallies had come via the header. Miranda's first MLS goal couldn't have come at a better time as he was left unmarked from 20 yards out.
“We practiced some plays and corners and the idea was maybe to find Milo [Mirosevic]," Miranda said after the match. "I was outside the box unmarked and I headed the ball and scored. It was my first time scoring with a header in my career. I headed it as hard as I could and it went in."
"Sebastian Miranda's header from 18, that's something special," Warzycha said in his postgame press conference.
"I don't think I've ever seen anything like that," Danny O'Rourke echoed. "The coaches installed that play I think yesterday. I'll be the first one to say I was a little skeptical when I saw it, but Dallas was dead and it was a great ball by Netzo (Nemanja Vukovic) played over and Seba had a great header."
2. MOMENTUM WITH MERAM
Though the circumstances that led Justin Meram's entry into the match for an injured Ethan Finlay were unfortunate for the Crew, the second-year forward out of the University of Michigan provided a needed boost to the Black & Gold attack on Saturday night. Meram's second appearance of the season was instrumental in creating chances for a team in dire need for some scoring momentum.
“I felt that Meram’s speed could hurt them [Dallas] on the left side," Warzycha said of the substitute. "I think he did very well today, he was very quick, didn’t hold the ball too much and that’s how we wanted him to play. If he keeps playing that way he can be very effective.”
Meram's 35 yard equalizer in the 67th minute broke a 263 minute scoring drought and was the first of the forward's career.
Meram and the Crew hope the club's two goals against Dallas start a trend for the Black & Gold.
“We needed it. It had been over 200 minutes without a goal and we finally got the monkey off our shoulders and we were able to get the first goal," Meram said after the game. "Once you get the first one the others will come”
3. GAVEN GOING FORWARD
In addition to Meram's spark off the bench, Warzycha's decision to move Eddie Gaven from the wing to a withdrawn forward behind Emilio Renteria in the middle of the first half was vital to creating chances in the Crew attack. Gaven gave the FC Dallas back line trouble all night with his ability and willingness to dribble at defenders.
"I think we were losing the middle of the field. They had three midfielders and we had only two. With Eddie's ability to control the ball and turn with it and run at defenders, I thought he was going to be much more effective." Warzycha said of the tactical shift.
"Having Eddie over there, not running behind the defense, he is going to get the ball in front of defenders and link the play or go by himself. Actually, he was pretty good."
With Finlay and Olman Vargas' status uncertain and Aaron Schoenfeld out for next week's matches in San Jose and Seattle, playing Gaven at forward may be the answer for Robert Warzycha's starting XI.