COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Same situation, different scenario for the Crew.
Just as they lost the postseason opener 1-0 at Real Salt Lake last season, the Crew also fell 1-0 in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Thursday at Colorado.
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Although the Crew still must overcome the Rapids by at least two goals at Crew Stadium on Nov. 6 to win the aggregate series, they have a slightly better feeling this time around.
In 2009 the Crew gave up a goal in the 86th minute and slinked home. Against the Rapids, Columbus were outplayed for the first two-thirds of the match but reversed the roles for the final half hour of play to dominate the home team and came very close to finding the equalizer.
“The way it went last year [againt RSL] was kind of a heartbreaker at the end,” Crew captain Frankie Hejduk said. “I felt we did the job we needed to do to get a tie, but there was a 10-second lapse that ended up losing the game.
“This year, the goal [came] a little bit earlier and we were able to get some momentum late in the second half,” he added. “We showed [Colorado] that we can put them on their heels because, after that first half, they didn’t look like they were going on their heels at all.
“We kept it at 1-0 and created a number of opportunities. We left the game with momentum and I think they feel that way, too.”
[inline_node:322074]Everyone on the Columbus side admitted they were fortunate to go into the break down by only one goal.
“The first half was tough,” forward Jason Garey said. “We really needed the halftime whistle, to be honest.”
Columbus have played the busiest schedule in the league over the past two months, with 10 games in the Champions League and US Open Cup. Thus, they were not thrilled to be playing a road match four days after the regular-season finale and week after a match in Trinidad.
“We were tired,” forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto said succintly.
Colorado wisely took advantage and used their speed to ram the attack down the Crew’s throat.
“We came out organized. The first 15 minutes were good,” Crew coach Robert Warzycha said. “The long passes to [Omar] Cummings changed the first half. They pushed us back a little bit.”
Rapids midfielder Pablo Mastroeni scored the lone goal in the 23rd minute.
“We had a few bad clearances in the box then the momentum switched from just being OK to scrapping to not give up another goal,” Warzycha said.
Despite the setback, the Crew can rely on the experience of last season to some degree. Needing a win over Real Salt Lake, the Crew scored the game’s first two goals and had the series in hand before stunningly giving up three straight to close out their postseason run.
“We’re feeling pretty confident we can score some goals at home,” Garey said. “We’re actually going to have a whole week and a half to prepare [for Colorado].”
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