COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Columbus Crew moved into a share of first in the Eastern Conference with Philadelphia following a gritty 1-0 win over Portland on Saturday, but coach Robert Warzycha is greedy.
“If you look at some of the games we played, we probably should have some more points,” he said after the match.
Saturday was looking like another of those games for the goal-challenged Crew (8-6-7, 31 points), who have scored one more goal (22) than matches played (21) — including Saturday’s winner against Portland, scored by Eddie Gaven in the 79th minute.
Columbus entered the game without a goal in the past two matches and were headed for a possible third scoreless match at home this season after a lackluster first half in which the Crew failed to muster a shot on target.
“Portland is a good team,” Warzycha said. “They defended well in the first half. It was hard to break them down. The second half it was a different formation and we were getting more crosses and more chances.”
Part of the problem for the Crew was fatigue following a 1-0 midweek loss on the road to the LA Galaxy. Then they had to deal with a heat index in the mid-90s at kickoff against the Timbers (6-10-3, 21) on Saturday.
“Today was a struggle, to be honest,” defender Chad Marshall said. “The midweek LA trip was tough on the legs for most guys and coming back to this heat, it was tough. We fought through it and got an important three points because we’ve got an important road trip coming up.”
The other potential hurdle, which turned out not to be one, was that goalkeeper William Hesmer did not play a regular season game for the first time since 2009. He tested a strained left quadriceps before the match but he and the medical staff decided not to risk playing.
Andy Gruenebaum made his first regular season appearance in goal since Aug. 30, 2009, although he started two playoff games last year and has played numerous Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League games in recent years.
“We talked about it yesterday,” Warzycha said. “He [Gruenebaum] knew he might in goal. He prepared himself.’
That’s what Gruenebaum did, especially after texting Hesmer on Saturday morning and receiving the response to be ready.
“I went into the whole day thinking I was going to start,” Gruenebaum said. “I was less nervous than I thought I would be. I don’t know, maybe it comes with experience and being in the league."
On the other end of the field, the lone goal by Gaven is all the Crew needed against Portland. After the controversy surrounding a Timbers goal-line clearance on a 60th minute header by Marshall which may have crossed the goal line, Gaven’s goal was also not without disputed circumstances.
Gaven put in a rebound off a Tommy Heinemann shot that hit the left post, reaching with his legs to deflect a shot on target. The ball was almost all the way across the goal line when Portland defender Mamadou Danso chested it into the side netting and Danso was originally given an own goal.
“I don’t know what happened after I hit it because I fell over,” Gaven said. “Somehow it hit off the post and it came out to me. It kind of hit my leg and fortunately it went in. I didn’t really have time to think. I kind of swung my leg out and tried to hit the ball toward the goal.”