Robert Warzycha could be the gutsiest coach of the year following his decision not to send most of his team to Guatemala for Wednesday’s crucial CONCACAF Champions League match, which could have clinched the Crew a berth in the quarterfinals.
But it may not be an award worth winning after a 2-1 loss to Municipal left the Crew second in Group B with one match left.
RECAP: MUNICIPAL 2, CLB 1
Many of Warzycha's best players were not subjected to the tough conditions that will have players sore for days, an unfortunate occurrence since the Crew return to MLS play Saturday against San Jose.
Torrential rains throughout the match left the field at Estadio Nacional Mateo Flores looking like a pasture after the running of the bulls. The field has no crown, and the water accumulated over the shoe tops in many spots and the grass lost its ability to stick to the earth.
“It was rough,” forward Jason Garey said. “It wasn’t really a field. It was a mud pit. You couldn’t dribble. You couldn’t pass. All you could try to do is kick it toward the other team’s goal. It was kind of a joke. I haven’t played on a field that bad since high school.”
Add to that an extremely physical match – especially in the closing minutes – and it’s clear this game was no place for players such as Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Chad Marshall and Frankie Hejduk if the Crew have aspirations in the US Open Cup final or the MLS stretch run.
“With the field conditions and the way the game was played, it was a good decision,” Warzycha said.
The Crew got frustrated with Municipal’s gamesmanship and tactics, and players and coaches had to be separated at the convoluted end of the match.
“We got hosed on a bunch of calls and we deserved better than that,” goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum said. “It was terrible conditions, a terrible field but both teams had to play on it.
“In Central America and Mexico, it’s a circus. You can’t expect to get any calls. They had like five free kicks at the top of our box in the first five minutes. It was like we were working on those in training,” he added. “It was a joke. They missed a clear handball and some fouls didn’t go our way. You’re not going to get any calls.”
Despite the loss, the Crew (3-2, 9 points) still control their fate. Santos Laguna (3-1-1, 10) are on top and Municipal (2-1-2, 8) are in third. Municipal play Santos in Mexico on Oct. 19 while the Crew travel to Trinidad to face last-place Joe Public (0-4-1) two days later, already knowing what they will need to do in the final match.
The Crew fell behind 2-0 by the 39th minute on two goals by Pando Ramírez, but got one back in the 45th minute when Andy Iro converted a corner kick from Duncan Oughton.
“The cross came in,” Iro said. “I saw my man was ball watching. I got in good position. It dropped to me and was able to knock it in.”
As the field deteriorated in the second half so did the play.
“Those games involve into a slugfest,” Garey said. “Just kick it up the field as far as you can and hope they make a mistake and you get a lucky bounce. It wasn’t soccer. It was pretty much kickball.”