What is it they say about great teams—they find a way to win?
Well, two weeks in a row now, the Columbus Crew have found that way. Two games ago, they got a stoppage-time goal from Robbie Rogers to beat the New England Revolution. Then this past Saturday, they pulled another three-point rabbit from the hat as Guillermo Barros Schelotto pounded a 90th-minute penalty past Zach Thornton to earn the Crew a 1-0 win over Chivas USA.
On the surface of things, teams like the Revs, who were missing just about everyone for that trip to Columbus, and Chivas USA, who are still trying to figure out how they want to play under new coach Martin Vasquez, are not the kind that a championship contender should struggle with, particularly at home. These are teams that the Crew should readily handle.
But then again, this is MLS. The league’s policy of parity makes every game competitive, and what some teams lack in quality, they make up for in quantity, as former Italy and MLS striker Giuseppe Galderisi used to say.
The work rate of New England and the organization of Chivas will always cause problems for a side like the Crew, who look to lean more heavily on a combination of lightning attacks and overpowering set pieces. The Crew should’ve scored twice against Chivas in the first half alone, but they couldn’t find a way through.
In the end, though, they did break the seal. And this brings me back to my opening salvo: Great teams find a way to win. Because make no mistake about it, this Crew team is great.
Starting today, however, things get tricky. With the U.S.’s World Cup camp opening, the Crew will be without two of their main cogs, Rogers and Chad Marshall. Coincidently, the pair is the responsible for the victories the past two weeks—Rogers scored the winner, Marshall drew the foul that led to GBS’ penalty.
These two losses are not as detrimental to the side as the loss of Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle is MLS’ other undefeated team, the LA Galaxy. LD and Buddle are the LA attack. Rogers and Marshall are vital parts in Robert Warzycha’s system, but if this Crew team has anything, it’s depth. There are guys ready, willing and able to step in and fill the void. They may not be the flank threat that Rogers is or the best center back in the league that Marshall is, but they will more than suffice for the near future.
As ambiguous as it might sound, two weeks from now when the Crew face the Galaxy, a great team will find a way to win.
Fire and Rain
Okay, I’m flummoxed. I have no idea what to make of this Chicago Fire team.
At moments, they are a flowing, languid example of why it’s called the beautiful game. At other times, they make even the guy who wrote Soccer for Dummies shake his head. For one thing, and this hasn’t been mentioned much, Carlos de los Cobos has tinkered with his lineup and formations constantly. Is Brian McBride a starter or not? Is it better to go with one or two forwards on the road?
Some of this is new-coach syndrome. But some of it seems to be avoidance. At some point, DLC should at least try McBride and Collins John up top together again now that John has some time with the team under his belt.
Lastly, goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra needs to find some consistency. Like Philadelphia’s Chris Seitz, he is capable of both the sublime and the subpar. I don’t want to blame him outright, but I feel like he could’ve done better on both goals against Kansas City.
A Win’s a Win’s a Win
What’s the difference between a 1-0 win on the road over Eastern Conference cellar-dwellers D.C. United and a 1-0 win on the road over East leaders the New York Red Bulls? For the winners, in this case, the Colorado Rapids and the Seattle Sounders, I’d say nothing.
Both Colorado and Seattle needed some momentum, some positivity. And although it wasn’t pretty on either side’s part, each got the job done.
Mehdi Ballouchy remains a player “with potential,” and on nights like Saturday he shows why. Too bad he can’t do that every Saturday.
All the debates about why Sigi Schmid benched Fredy Montero should be done now. He benched him because he hasn’t played well this year. Whether Schmid did it to send a message or simply because he needed a more effective option on the field, it worked. End of of debate.
A Player I Like
Bobby Burling. San Jose Earthquakes defender is quietly asserting himself as a set-piece threat a la Columbus’ Marshall. Keep an eye on him.
The U.S. national team begins training on Monday in Princeton, New Jersey. MLSsoccer.com will be at camp all week, covering everything from top to bottom. Most interesting questions, of course: Buddle or Gomez? Marshall or Goodson? Who pairs with Michael Bradley? Is Gooch ready? Is Demerit’s eye problem a, well, problem? Where does Bocanegra play?
All these questions have me nervous. So does the sudden confidence that the U.S. will get a result against England. Even some Englishmen I know are saying this. Ballyhoo, I say. Mind games. Even the fans need to play them now.