Failure in final third continues for the home side.The Columbus Crew's struggles to score continued on a cold and windy late March afternoon in Columbus, as they most likely dropped two points against a less than full strength New York side in a scoreless draw. The Crew did put on a much better display than they did their 3-1 defeat at the hands of DC United, but the keepers for both sides rarely were tested. Crossing the ball in the final third was decidedly poor, as the wind prevented any lofted cross from finding a target.
The Crew came out in a formation that they played in much of last year, with Emmanuel Ekpo sitting behind Andres Mendoza, in almost a 5 man midfield. Early on, the home side was able to keep the ball and were creating the best early chances, with the best a Chad Marshall header from a Mendoza free kick, but the captain's looping effort was easily saved by debutant keeper Alex Horwath in the sixth minute.
Robbie Rogers impressed as a substitute last match, and was given a start by Crew boss Robert Warzycha, and the winger did not disappoint, looking dangerous often against a untested back four of New York, and a Dejan Rusmir through ball found him in the clear on the left in minute 14, but the onrushing Horwath denied Rogers time and he was able to save Rogers attempted flick. Good play from the Crew, but nicely broken up by the keeper.
New York did not threaten often in the match, as their first true opportunity came after a poor Crew free kick gave them a chance to break, leading to a corner, and from that corner another debutant, center half Stephen Keel, who was booked on the foul that led to the Crew's free kick, headed over in the 31st minute. A rare chance in the first half for New York was not taken.
The Black and Gold created most of their best chances down the left, as again Robbie Rogers found space and time in the 32nd minute, and this time he crossed low for striker Andres Mendoza, but it was just too far out in front and was gathered in comfortably by Red Bulls keeper Horwath. A minute later, the first Crew corner was earned after some nice counter-attacking football down the right. From the resulting Eddie Gaven's corner, pre-season signing Dejan Rusmir, who also looked good throughout, tried a ambitious bicycle kick from just inside the 18, but he didn't make good contact.
The games best chance came in minute 40, when another Crew counter down the right saw rookie Rich Balchan make a fine run, and his pass to Ekpo was quickly fired in by the Nigerian, producing a sparkling save by Alex Horwath, who needed to get down to his left quickly. That was the last real bit of action in the opening half. At half time, Crew coach Robert Warzycha could take solace in his team's showing so far, they were looking dangerous on the break, but were missing the final third quality that is required.
Just three minutes into the second half, a Emmanuel Ekpo floated cross to the back post somehow did not find any of the players rushing to meet it, and the Crew missed a chance to get the breakthrough they had perhaps earned.
A foul committed by Julius James on Luke Rodgers in minute 53 led to a free kick in a good position. However, the free kick was dealt with, and the home side broke quickly and the ever dangerous Robbie Rogers found himself and Andres Mendoza in a 2 on 1, but Rogers pass was too slow, New York was able to recover. A big chance for the Crew, but again in the final third it all came apart.
The first substitution was made by the home team as Dilly Duka came on for the impressive Rusmir after 55 minutes. This allowed Ekpo to drop farther back and the fresh Duka would go to the withdrawn forward spot. Just afterward, a quick Crew break again fell apart as no less than 3 Crew players could not find a pass or shot between them. The fans frustration was mounting, and was on display for periods during the second half. The Crew did win a corner, this time playing it short to Robbie Rogers, who gave it back to Gaven, but Gaven hit his cross right to Horwath, and another chance was wasted.
The home team continually found good space down the flanks, but the blustery conditions made crossing a dicey proposition, as both fullbacks and wingers alike could not find good crosses consistently. After back to back overhit crosses were sent in from both the left and right, the Crew supporters began to chant “Guillermo....Guillermo”, in reference to the now departed Gulliermo Barros Schelotto, who's guile and vision were sorely missed in the attacking areas.
In extra time Joel Lindpere forced Hesmer into his first real action of the match, as his driven effort was well saved by the Crew's number one keeper down to his left. That was to be the last true activity of the match, and at the full time whistle a small number of boos went raining down from the home supporters, clearly frustrated after a dismal display around the goal. Whether this point is a point gained or two lost remains to be seen, but the Crew know that they let a possible victory slip through their collective fingers.
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