COLUMBUS – In this age of media overload, everyone going to the Crew’s first MLS home game of 2011 was well aware of the changes to the roster. They were also well aware of the struggles this version of the Crew has gone though, being outscored 7-2 in their past two games in all competitions.
Still, it was jarring to realize that only three players who started the opening home game a year ago vs. Toronto FC were in the first XI against the New York Red Bulls: goalkeeper William Hesmer and midfielders Eddie Gaven and Robbie Rogers.
[inline_node:332130]Three other starters in Saturday 0-0 draw were on last year’s team from the beginning – defender Chad Marshall and midfielders Kevin Burns and Emmanuel Ekpo - and a fourth, forward Andres Mendoza, joined in September.
The newcomers vs. the Red Bulls were midfielder Dejan Rusmir and defenders Sebastian Miranda, Julius James and rookie Rich Balchan.
“With the new group (of defenders) we have that’s impressive we had the clean sheet,” coach Robert Warzycha said.
The Crew (0-1-1) was aided considerably the absence of six starters for New York because of injuries and national team call-ups, yet the visitors nearly pulled out a win in stoppage time. Hesmer, though, played the hero as he stopped a Joel Lindpere shot targeted for the lower right corner.
“It was nice to get the clean sheet,” Marshall said. “Will made a good save there on Lindpere. That was the only good chance they had.”
The Crew got even newer and younger by the end of the match. Rookie midfielder Bernardo Anor replaced Rogers and forward Tommy Heinemann – a third-year pro in his first MLS season – took over for Gaven. Also, Dilly Duka, who played 160 minutes last season, subbed for the Serbian veteran Rusmir and performed well.
[inline_node:330534]It’s a short week for the Crew as they host FC Dallas on Friday. The big storyline is whether former Hoops forward Jeff Cunningham, released after the 2010 season, gets a chance to tie Jaime Moreno’s league career mark of 133 goals.
Cunningham played 61 minutes during the season-opening loss at D.C. United on March 19, but was an unused sub vs. New York. Warzycha favored Ekpo at the start in a 4-1-3-1-1, and later Heinemann off the bench when Columbus switched to a 4-4-2.
Warzycha said afterward that Cunningham is not injured.
Meanwhile, Mendoza had one shot on goal Saturday –his lone in 180 minutes this season – and was offside four times.
All associated with the Crew were saddened to hear of the death midweek of Gary Lenhart, the father of Steven Lenhart, the former Crew forward who was traded to San Jose in January.
Crew midfielder Robbie Rogers flew Sunday to California for the funeral.
The Earthquakes dedicated their 2-0 win Saturday against FC Dallas to Steven Lenhart,
“We really wanted this bad tonight for our friend Steven,” goalkeeper Jon Busch, another former Crew player, told the San Jose Mercury News. “We dug in for him. This victory was for him.”
Gary Lenhart was also the father-in-law of ex-Crew midfielder Adam Moffat, who went to Portland in November’s expansion draft. Moffat married Steven’s sister, Jennifer, in December 2009, in a wedding at the Lenharts’ California home that was performed by the Crew’s Athletes In Action representative Jim Schmidtke.