Crew Cuts: A cinch to clinch
If you listened hard through the raucous cheers of the Nordecke, the bustling hum of post-match interviews and the hip-hop blaring in the Columbus Crew locker room, there was a faint clicking sound among the soccer gods, like a well-tuned machine locking into place.
It sounded a bit like this: "Clinch."
With Saturday's 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy, the Crew became the first MLS team to secure a playoff spot for the second straight year.
True, it didn't become official until DC United's 2-1 demise at the hands of San Jose Sunday afternoon. But by dispatching yet another of the league's top teams, Columbus had essentially punched its ticket to the postseason.
Not bad for a team that started the season 0-2-5.
The Crew's accomplishment was all the more impressive considering the club is in the midst of CONCACAF Champions League play.
Playing its third match in seven days with an important Champions League contest looming three days later, the Crew rested Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Robbie Rogers, Alejandro Moreno and Gino Padula, four starters on last year's MLS Cup-winning side. Last year's Defender of the Year Chad Marshall sat out with an injury.
Their absence didn't stop Columbus from delivering one of its most dominating performances of the year.
"We don't have a reserve team. We have 23 players right now that can step up any time on the field and win any game. You saw that today," Coach Robert Warzycha said. "Everybody here on this club is contributing. We have a very deep squad."
Go, Gaven, Go
Although Warzycha is right that everyone on the Crew is lending a hand right now, several players stood out Saturday, including bulldozer forwards Steven Lenhart and Emilio Renteria, who combined for the Crew's second goal in the 59th minute.
Then there's Eddie Gaven, who capped off a huge September with a 33rd-minute header off Emmanuel Ekpo's cross.
It was Gaven's third game-winning goal in four matches; he also scored a stoppage-time PK against West-leading Houston and netted the lone tally at Costa Rica's Saprissa in Champions League play.
Gaven characteristically downplayed his own role in the Crew's surge.
"I think it's been a big month for this team," Gaven said. "We've had some huge wins against some of the best teams in this league. Hopefully we can just keep it going now."
Sigi soccer Sigi soccer oy oy oy
There's been surprisingly little hubbub about Saturday's impending visit from the Seattle Sounders and former Crew coach Sigi Schmid. But the fat man will be back in Columbus this weekend as his expansion squad fights to stay in playoff position.
How will Columbus fans greet last year's MLS Coach of the Year? Show up by 7:30 p.m. and see for yourself.
Eddie Gaven and Frankie Hejduk celebrate with fans after Gaven scored the game-winning goal against Houston on Sept. 13.
Kyle Robertson/Dispatch photo
Seattle Sounders at Columbus Crew
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3
Where: Crew Stadium, North Side