Crew Cuts: Snapped streak
For more than a year, Crew Stadium has been an impenetrable stronghold for the Columbus Crew.
Heading into last Saturday's showdown with former coach Sigi Schmid and his expansion Seattle Sounders, Columbus was riding a 22-match unbeaten streak in MLS play dating back to a 2-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes on June 7, 2008, when Schmid was still at the helm.
Yes, Columbus fell to Cruz Azul last month in Champions League play. But throughout last season's title run, this year's early stumbles and the summer's renewed momentum, the Crew never lost at home against a league opponent.
Sigi and his boys put an end to that with an opportunistic 1-0 win in one of the strangest contests of this Crew season.
After the Sounders' Roger Levesque nabbed a goal against the run of play in the 36th minute, Columbus saw several sure scoring chances squandered and stymied.
"We played one of our best games, I'd say, this season," Crew coach Robert Warzycha said, "but the ball, for some reason, didn't want to go into the net."
A Seattle defender bicycle-kicked Steven Lenhart's header off the goal line. Veteran U.S. national team goalie Kasey Keller dived to deny Crew midfielder Brian Carroll.
Most shockingly, reigning league MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto, previously 8-for-8 on penalty kicks in his MLS career, sent a PK attempt wide left in the 83rd minute.
Schmid chalked up Schelotto's miss to a successful scouting job by Seattle's coaching staff.
"We know that Guille likes to go down the middle when he can, and we just said hold your ground, hold your ground, and forced him into making a decision," Schmid said.
Schelotto was willing to take the fall.
"It's my fault, I know," Schelotto said in the post-game locker room. "They broke the floor before the penalty, but it's my fault."
Schelotto's broken floor comment referred to Seattle defender Tyrone Marshall, who introduced a new level of gamesmanship during the scuffle before Schelotto's PK by kicking a hole in the dirt where the penalty spot is supposed to be.
Thanks to a comfortable cushion at the top of the standings, the Crew doesn't find itself in a similar hole after dropping points to the Sounders. Columbus remains in the driver's seat for the Supporters Shield and home-field advantage in the playoffs. But they were still disappointed to see their streak conclude.
"Mostly for me, I'm really disappointed for the fans," Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer said. "Ever since they put together that Nordecke section, we've made this place a fortress. We've fought hard for them. Whether you want to or not, you feel their passion."
Schmid, basking in the glow of a hard-fought road win, was less sentimental for his former squad.
"Streaks," he said, "are sometimes made to be broken."
Columbus Crew at New England Revolution
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10
TV: Fox Soccer Channel