Running Diary: Crew vs. Red Bulls

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

6:47 The stadium is about as full as I expected: The crowd is sparse, but much thicker than it would be for the average 30-degree match day. The players seem not-too-pleased to be out there warming up. I am ever-so-pleased to be seated in the press box.

6:55 The LH logo cut into the field in honor of recently deceased founder Lamar Hunt looks fittingly classy.

7:00 The singer from local one-hit wonders Saving Jane belts out the national anthem. It’s nice that they actually got someone who could stay in tune for opening day. Some of last year’s guests seemed to be doing an experimental noise version of the anthem.

7:04 Your Crew starting lineup: Andy Herron, Joseph Ngwenya, Jason Garey, Eddie Gaven, Ned Grabavoy, Danny O’Rourke, Rusty Pierce, Marcos Gonzalez, Ezra Hendrickson, Frankie Hejduk, Andy Gruenebaum.

7:05 Your Red Bull New York starters: Jozy Altidore, John Wolyniec, Dema Kovalenko (a.k.a. Notorious Hack), Dane Richards, Dave van der Bergh, Claudio Reyna, Todd Dunivant, Seth Stammler, Carlos Mendes, Marvell Wynne (the second!), Ronald Wattereus.

7:07 The Crew kicks off and immediately begins to attack. This already shows marked improvement from last season, when they undoubtedly would have passed it back to the goalie, chilled in the back third for a spell, then turned it over.

7:09 Notorious Hack lifts a shot over the Crew’s crossbar. This phenomenon never ceases to amaze me. Granted, MLS players don’t exactly roll in dough, but you would think someone who gets paid to do this could keep his shot low. And this even happens in the World Cup. I guess that explains the popularity of "soccer style kicking" in the NFL.

7:10 Gaven drives down the right side of the box and rifles a shot that Red Bull parries forward. Grabavoy follows with a poorly placed blast, and the attack peters out.

7:11 Pierce seems to snag the ball with his hand in the box. This inexplicably is credited against former Crew forward Wolyniec of the Red Bulls.

7:13 Altidore is caught cherry-picking.

7:15 A Crew attack down the right fizzles before they manage to enter the box.

7:16 A Crew attack down the left fizzles before they manage to enter the box.

7:21 Crew defense ably passes its way out of a Red Bull attack and into a promising counter, which dissolves when Ngwenya gets his spleen hacked out by the New York backline.

7:24 Red Bull falls down, Hendrickson gets called for a foul.

7:26 Notorious Hack sabotages a Grabavoy break with one of his trademark femur-shattering tackles. (Grabavoy’s femur does not shatter.) The first of many, many yellow cards this year for Dema. I am fairly certain that if his mother tried to dribble past him, he would shatter her femur.

7:27 Garey gets service in the box from the yellow card aftermath and shoots from point blank. Waterrues stifles the shot and the follow-up before a glut of players pile up. It’s the most promising Crew attack so far.

7:29 Richards collides with his Red Bull teammate Reyna and both players go down. Reyna requires medical attention.

7:32 Herron goes down on the left flank. No call. He keeps clutching his shin, so they call the trainer.

7:33 Notorious Hack launches a dangerous strike wide right. It’s Red Bull’s first shot in 25 minutes, but don’t let that mislead you; they’ve owned the Crew this half.

7:34 Richards pulls some neat little tricks on a pair of Crew defenders, then taps back to Wynne, whose meek cross is easily dealt with by Grabavoy’s head.

7:37 Wynne continues to be incapable of getting a cross past the Crew defense, and on the ensuing break, Gaven goes down clutching his knee. He turns out to be OK.

7:38 Richards forces the game’s first corner kick for the Red Bulls.

7:39 The corner kick is harmless, but Richards breaks past the D and gets off a hot shot.

7:40 Crew gets its first attack action in a while, but nothing too dangerous.

7:41 Wolyniec drives deep into the left corner. Notorious Hack launches a dipping beauty, which Gruenebaum forces over the top. The ensuing corner kick produces nothing.

7:42 Wolyniec, Richards and Notorious Hack are causing a lot of problems for the Crew, but the defense has held strong so far. Offense is sputtering.

7:46 Crew free kick leads to arching header from Herron, but all for naught. Goal kick.

7:47 More danger from Red Bull, this time Altidore. Gruenebaum pulls off a glorious kick save, and luckily for the Crew no Red Bulls are waiting to pounce.

7:48 Garey springs a Crew attack, then Mendes pulls an NFL tackle on Gaven in the right side of the Red Bull box. The referee’s whistle remains maddeningly silent.

7:50 Pierce tries to head out for a throw-in, but the ball hits the corner flag and bounces out for a corner kick. Altidore’s header goes over the top. “Over the top,” while describing the trajectory of most of the shots tonight, is not a fitting descriptor for this mildly entertaining action.

7:52 Grabavoy pulls an awesome strip on Reyna at the top of the Crew box. The ensuing break leads to a free kick for the Crew. Grabavoy’s service flies through the box untouched.

7:53 Halftime.

7:58 On the monitor I see that the TV is showing that Wendy’s commercial where the cute four-eyed gal outlasts her friends and eats the super-spicy sandwich without taking a sip of her beverage. I wonder if Wendy’s realizes that the song they used for this spot—“Blister in the Sun” by Violent Femmes—is clearly about masturbation. This, however, is not quite as wacky as when McDonald’s used the Shins’ “New Slang” in its ad, including the line about “dirt in your fries.”

8:04 Warm, warm press box.

8:10 And we’re off! A quick Crew attack goes nowhere, but they maintain control, only to go nowhere again.

8:13 After some uneventful back-and-forth, Crew hangs back and sets up its offense, only to sputter when they try to actually advance forward. This team isn’t showing signs that it’s ready to break out of last season’s goal-scoring funk. Lots of horizontal passes, especially when a diagonal would do the trick.

8:14 Gaven’s shot is deflected for a Crew corner. He takes it, finding Gonzales’ head. Hendrickson intercepts the errant header and heads it himself, sending the ball just wide right. This team could turn out to be quite strong on set pieces.

8:17 Herron taps the ball to Red Bull, then whines to somebody about something.

8:18 Herron drives and again dribbles the ball straight to the defender’s foot. It results in a sticky situation in the Crew’s box that Hejduk cleans up.

8:19 Grabavoy is called for a handball on the left flank, setting up a close freekick for the Red Bulls. Gaven clears the Red Bull service out for a corner kick.

8:20 Van der Bergh launches a shot from the top of the box; Gruenebaum saves it. The snow is really coming down out there.

8:21 Gaven breaks down the right side and lets off a dangerous cross that Herron and Garey both barely miss. That should have been a goal, fellas.

8:22 Gaven races into the box and rips a shot that Waterreus kick-saves. The corner kick amounts to nothing. Still, this is much more promising stuff from the Crew attackers.

8:23 The snow seems to be in remission.

8:24 Grabavoy fouls Reyna, setting up a free kick from the left. Reyna sends it straight into Gruenebaum’s gloves. We also have our first sub: Washed-up madman Clint Mathis (a.k.a. Cletus) enters for Altidore.

8:25 Thrilling attack from the Crew. Grabavoy plays a killer through ball down the left to Ngwenya, whose shot is batted away. A service to Gaven’s head sails above him and out for a throw-in.

8:26 Garey’s header flies over the crossbar. The Crew is pouring on the pressure now. It’s bound to break through sometime soon, right?

8:28 Garey is offside, and the keeper gets to his shot anyway.

8:31 After a series of Red Bull attacks, Richards half-volleys from the 18. His rocket careens left.

8:32 Richards cuts through the Crew D and feeds Wolyniec. Unfortunately for them, Woly is offside.

8:33 Long ball down the left for Ngwenya, but they squander it.

8:35 Fan favorite Duncan Oughton enters for Herron.

8:37 Ngwenya shoots from way out, and he’s way off. I wonder if he would be more comfortable bicycle kicking a basketball into a hoop as he does in the team’s TV commercials.

8:38 Kei Kamara enters for Garey.

8:39 The Crew defense fails to communicate, shepherds out the ball for a corner. On the corner, Van der Bergh rips a shot into the Crew D.

8:41 Quiet second half for Notorious Hack.

8:42 Wynne fouls Ngwenya, setting up a free kick outside the box to the left. The crowd is stomping and cheering like crazy, but the service lands squarely in Waterreus’s arms.

8:44 Hejduk makes an offensive foray, and his scorching cross can’t find its way to an attacker. Also, it’s time for the Wild Bean Shootout! This means (a)10 minutes are left and (b) we get gas station cookies if the Crew scores.

8:46 Crew corner kick. Hendrickson gets his head on it, but again it loops over the crossbar. Apparenly it was deflected. Another corner. The ball pinballs around the box for a bit, leading to another corner, this one harmless.

8:47 They announce attendance at 13,782, which seems generous.

8:48 Before a Red Bull free kick, Richards exits in favor of Sinisa Ubiparipovic. (Seriously, that’s the dude’s name. I’m not toying with you.)

8:51 Brad Evans enters for Gaven, who must be gassed after the show he put on.

8:52 Grabavoy’s low shot from outside clangs against the right post. A follow-up from Ngwenya is way high.

8:54 Last minute before stoppage. Evans gets a dangerous ball down the left and cuts into the box, only to kick straight into the side netting. What a waste.

8:56 Game over. 0-0. Brrr.

8:57 The Crew gives an ovation to its die-hard fans for braving the cold.

8:58 Kovalenko shatters each player's femur, then eludes the police by shattering their femurs as well.

Back with my thoughts tomorrow.