Thursday, September 5, 2013

Crew Rd 27, A Refreshening

The Columbus Crew play out a fun and open game to victory over the Houston Dynamo.

Columbus came out in a somewhat different looking lineup. New interim head coach Brian Bliss stated in the press that he wanted some new faces and he made good on it, somewhat.

Eric Gehrig and Ethan Finlay were two of the surprises getting the nod. Other notables include Ryan Finley getting a start over Jairo Arrieta and Tyson Wahl making a reappearance after not playing for a couple months.

The changes early on almost looked to backfire as Houston's Will Bruin was able to easily work past Gehrig on at least three occasions (two of which should have been a goal).

Eventually the game sort of settled into an evenly matched pinball type MLS game rhythm, but not ugly by any means.

Columbus jumped all over a questionable Houston back line early when Justin Meram found Ryan Finley right in front of goal.

Tony Tchani, who was subbed on in the first half due to a Wil Trapp injury, provided the nice play (huge shoulder barge on Adam Moffat, sending him to ground) setting up that goal. Tchani would go on to play a nice half.

Minutes later Dominic Oduro would be dragged down in the box. Ryan Finley would step up and miss the penalty but it mattered little as Houston seemed to drift further away from getting anything from this game.

For the first time for as long as many can remember, the Crew felt like the Crew and were at full steam.

The Crew would go on to play probably the most balanced I've seen them for the next 20 minutes. There efforts were satisfyingly rewarded in the 74th with Ethan Finlay worked the ball over to Oduro who picked out Ryan Finley at the top of the box. He would go on to whiff but it fell to Meram who did what Meram does and did it beautifully.

2:0 Crew.

The final 15 saw Bliss and his crew settle in and keep a defeated Dynamo out of goal.

This was a refreshing game for me personally. I've been watching and writing closely about them since late 2010. There were few times in 2011 that the Crew felt like the "Crew" I knew. Or at least the Crew image I had in my minds eye.

After a long dry spell from late 2011 there were very few of these 'Crew' moments for me but, goddamn... last night felt Crew.

Missing the star player and a couple defensive cornerstones... players like Eric Gehrig (perennial hard worker, reserve), Ethan Finlay (fan fav last year, went to doghouse, great preseason but no minutes), Tyson Wahl (veteran, journeyman), Tony Tchani (Gen Adidas player, yet to find stride and window closing) were in there, making soccer for me. Not the pretty magic football that people seek out in much better leagues, but the earthy MLS magic that happens so very rarely but I wish happened more.

Brian Bliss is the perfect conduit for this type of soccer. A smart, respected American coach with an intimidating amount of experience. He seemingly did everything right last night. From lineup, to subs (classy move to put Konrad Warzycha on late), to urging team to thank fans, to mentioning Chad Marshall as a USMNT player. He hit all the marks and did it like it was natural to him.

Is what happened last night a model for sustainable success? No. Of course not. Only the most delusional would think that a team as inexperienced and as young as that could win out over a long season... but, within last night's events, that is where the important parts to success breathe.

With the US Men's game against Mexico coming up, history will probably not remember too much about this game but I really hope Crew fans soaked up what happened last night. It hasn't happened often over recent years.

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