Though the Black & Gold were disappointed to allow a late equalizer Saturday night in San Jose, the players can hold their heads high after earning a point on the road against on of the league’s top teams. Here are a few things to take away from the Crew’s 1-1 draw against the Earthquakes:
San Jose came into the match with 22 goals in 11 games on the season, and from the early minutes of the first half it was easy to see why.
Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum was bombarded with shot after shot early on, never letting one slip past. A penalty awarded to former Crew striker Steven Lenhart in the 21st minute spelled certain doom for the Black & Gold as MLS’s leading scorer Chris Wondolowski stepped to the penalty spot. Gruenebaum’s studying of video paid off as he dove left to save Wondolowski’s attempt for his 12th goal of the season and keep the game scoreless.
Minutes later, Gruenebaum faced a 3-man firing squad of Lenhart, Wondolowski, and Simon Dawkins getting a hand to every shot to deny the Earthquakes of a goal.
The ‘keeper finished with a new career-high of seven saves, earning him Barbasol Man of the Match honors.
2.MERAM MAKES IT COUNT
Completing the final pass has been a problem for the Black & Gold all season, and Saturday night was no different as the Crew only registered one shot on goal. However, forward Justin Meram made Columbus’ lone attempt a memorable one as his strike will surely be up for AT&T Goal of the Week honors this week.
In the 43rd minute, Meram beat Earthquakes right back Steven Beitashour and found ‘keeper Jon Busch standing near post. Meram then curled the ball to the far-post over Busch’s head to net his second goal in as many games.
“I just kind of saw the back of the goal. I think that was my first finesse shot (in a while). Honestly, I saw the opening, I hit it and it went it,” Meram explained after the game.
While he didn’t score in his rookie season of 2011, Meram hopes his recent run can continue and return him to the strike rate that made him a standout at the University of Michigan.
“In college, I scored a lot of goals,” Meram said. “Finally, when I got the monkey off my back (last week), now I go out and play. I feel comfortable. I got that natural instinct back, which is good. As a goal-scorer, there’s always those droughts and moments where you’re either hot or you’re not. I’m going to keep riding this as long as I can.”
3. DANGEROUS DUKA
Crew winger Dilly Duka returned from a nagging hamstring injury that forced him to only see action in two matches prior to Saturday’s match. Duka came on in the 60th minute for Meram to provide some pace on the left wing as Eddie Gaven shifted to a forward position pairing with Olman Vargas up top.
Duka showed no signs of the injury as he troubled defenders in his 30 minutes of play and nearly put the Crew ahead in the final seconds with a free kick from just outside the box that missed a few inches above the crossbar.
A healthy Duka will be key Wednesday in Seattle as Milovan Mirosevic will questionable after leaving after halftime in Saturday’s match. If Duka should make the starting XI, it would be his first start since the season opener in Colorado.