Crew: Asking the tough questions

Chris DeVille, Columbus Alive

Crunch time is here, and wheels that seemed sturdy are threatening to fall off, so the Crew must ask some difficult questions. Can they stay healthy down the stretch? Can they bounce back after tough losses? Can Federico Higuain keep extracting magic from his posterior the way he did during the dog days of summer?

I don't have the answers to those questions, but I can answer these:

What's more embarrassing: diving headfirst into the goalpost or getting scored on directly from a corner kick?

Crew goalkeepers suffered both fates Saturday at Red Bull Arena, where New York beat Columbus 3-1.

The game was a tight 1-1 knot until the 79th minute, when Dax McCarty slotted a low dart past a diving Andy Gruenebaum, whose head promptly collided with the goalpost. After spending a scary amount of time sprawled and bloodied on the grass, Gruenebaum got up, demanded to stay in the game and was promptly replaced by backup Matt Lampson.

During the nine (!) minutes of stoppage time that proceeded Gruenebaum's injury, Thierry Henry punished Lampson with a pinpoint corner kick that looped over everyone, careened off the opposite goalpost and into the net.

Answer: Trick question! Neither goalkeeping gaffe is as embarrassing as Chad Marshall's defense on Henry's first goal Saturday.

Could the Crew attract 14,000+ to a reserve league match?

This seems relevant because the Portland Timbers drew that many to see their scrubs face Seattle's scrubs last month.

Answer: No, unless there's some way to schedule them against the Ohio State football team.

Who's a more hated rival: D.C. United or Chicago Fire?

The Crew was tormented from all sides in the club's early years. From the East came constant pecking from the Screaming Eagles that roost in our nation's capital. From the West, frequent singe marks courtesy of the thugs in the Windy City.

The Crew eventually exerted muscle over both enemies, making the leap from whipping boys to outright rivals. Both clubs loom large this week as Columbus travels to Chicago in a bid to keep playoff pace with D.C.

(Note that Toronto FC, though despised, is left out of this conversation because their "rivalry" has never posed a significant threat to Crew hegemony.)

Answer: Though D.C. was first, Chicago is worst. The Crew should always be able to dredge up enough ill will to extinguish the Fire.

Columbus Crew at Chicago Fire

8:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22

TV: Fox Sports Ohio