Crew Cuts: Back from the dead

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The Columbus Crew accomplished a lot by beating Toronto FC 3-2 Saturday at Crew Stadium:

They ascended to first place in the Eastern Conference and climbed within two points of Houston in the race for the Supporters' Shield, awarded to the MLS team with the best regular-season record - this after starting 0-2-5, the worst-ever season-opening slump for a defending champ.

They maintained their grip on the Trillium Cup, awarded annually to the winner of the season series between Columbus and Toronto. The red-clad Canadians, a 2007 expansion team, have yet to defeat the Crew in nine matches over three seasons.

They set a league record by going 19 straight regular-season home matches without a loss. Make that 21 straight if you count playoff wins over Kansas City and Chicago.

Nonetheless, all of that took a backseat to the immediate drama on the pitch as the newly christened "Bash Brothers" came through for the second week in a row, pulling Columbus back from a 2-1 deficit in the first half.

The dual lightning bolts of Steven Lenhart's 76th-minute equalizer and Jason Garey's 92nd-minute game-winner made Crew Stadium more electric than it's been since last year's playoffs.

The 2008 Crew built its championship on comebacks, including a 2-1 come-from-behind win over Chicago in the Eastern Conference title game. This victory echoes much further back in Crew lore, though, to a time before even Coach Robert Warzycha joined the team as a player midway through the inaugural 1996 season. Let's flash back ...

That year, the Crew was playing in Ohio Stadium, where fans were packing the A Deck to witness this new spectacle (and the spectacular bust, Doctor Khumalo, billed at the time as "the Michael Jordan of South African soccer"). After routing DC United 4-0 in its first game and falling 2-1 to Tampa Bay the following week, Columbus hosted its third home match at the Horseshoe on May 11.

The league was only a few weeks old at the time, so there was no tradition to build on, but that didn't keep the crowd from responding passionately when Columbus shocked New England with a pair of late strikes.

After falling behind 2-1, Columbus got goals from "Sneaky" Pete Marino in the 87th minute and Brian McBride in the 89th, rallying the Crew to victory and stirring many in the 24,000-person crowd to rush the field at Ohio Stadium. (The CSC staffers who monitor today's Nordecke will be glad to know that security presence increased significantly the following match.)

What do you think? Share your comment below.

Crew Cuts: Back from the dead

Columbus Crew at Colorado Rapids

When: 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1