Running Diary: Crew vs. Revolution

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

6:59 Your Crew starters: “Dandy” Andy Gruenebaum, Frankie Hejduk, Marcos Gonzalez, Ezra Hendrickson, Rusty Pierce, Joseph Ngwenya, Ned Grabavoy, Danny O’Rourke, Eddie Gaven, Andy Herron, Ricardo Virtuoso.

7:00 New England’s starting 11: Matt Reis, Jay Heaps (the Revs’ resident hack), James Riley, Avery John, mega-veteran Steve Ralston, Andy Dorman, Shalrie Joseph, Jeff Larentowicz, Khano Smith, Taylor Twellman, Adam Cristman.

7:04 They’re really pushing Love Sick Radio, the band that played in the plaza out front before the game. Dispatch reporter Shawn Mitchell calls them a disgrace to music.

7:08 We’re underway. New England gets right to work with an offensive sequence and a shot that Dandy Andy dives on.

7:09 Ngwenya’s cross from the right is deflected for a Crew corner kick. Virtuoso’s kick is parried by Reis, but the Crew keeps possession.

7:11 Virtuoso drops some persistent footwork that eventually leads to another corner. Herron’s side volley fails to connect. On the ensuing possession, Hejduk and Ngwenya combine for a cross from the right, but Reis grabs it.

7:12 Ralston blasts one over the top.

7:13 More offensive spark from Virtuoso. This time he gets stuck at the top of the box and tries a shot, but it’s straight at Reis. On the outlet, the Revs turn a dangerous run from Cristman into a corner kick.

7:14 Revs corner finds Joseph’s head, but he knocks it high and wide.

7:15 First Crew goal of the season! After some great passing, Virtuoso dumps it off at the top of the box for Grabavoy, whose shot ricochets through the defense and into the net.

7:16 The pitch is now slightly littered with black and gold streamers and confetti.

7:18 The Revs strike back right away! The Crew defense allows Cristman’s shot-cross thingy to make it through to Dorman, practically alone in the box. He muscles off the remaining man, allowing for an easy tap around Dandy Andy.

7:21 Herron goes down and the crowd is angry, but the Crew attack goes on, at least until Gaven’s errant through-ball ends the threat.

7:23 Ngwenya turns the corner into the box, but his pass is intercepted. Gaven regains possession, but his shot is blocked. The throw-in leads to more great passing, but Gaven’s gross is cleared out for another corner, which finds Gonzalez’s head for nought.

7:26 Ngwenya pulls off some sick dribbling out of trouble on the right flank, but he can’t go on forever without a poor touch. Fun stuff, though.

7:27 Hejduk’s left-footed cross, Herron gets another sideways volley, but Reis has it covered. This is infinitely more exciting than the home opener. The Crew’s attack has been inspired.

7:29 After a lot of fiddling around from Virtuoso on the left flank, he gets off a cross, which sails through the box and bounces right to Hejduk. He approaches and launches the inevitable strike over the top.

7:30 Gaven pulls off a steal at midfield and plays a killer through-ball to Herron. The shot is blocked by Reis, but it bounces to Gaven at the top of the box. He settles the rebound and shoots toward the empty net, but a defender pulls off a nice kick save.

7:31 After more dangerous Crew chances, the Revs regain possession, only to have O’Rourke muscle them off the ball. They finally get an attack going, but it ends in a Crew goal kick.

7:32 Another possession funnels through Virtuoso and into a Crew corner kick. Riley heads it out for NE, but Herron scoops it up, fakes himself out, and sends in a cross that pinballs back and forth for a while. The Crew is playing with some serious fire. They’re not even letting the Revs get off a good through ball.

7:35 The Crew allows New England a hold-your-breath amount of leeway in the box, but eventually manages to clear. The Revs stay at it and win a corner, but do nothin’ with it.

7:37 I can’t tell you how I excited I am that 61 minutes remain in this match. Like, as excited as the producers of American Idol were last night when the Long National Nightmare came to an end. Well, they were probably pretty conflicted about that considering they lost the guy who was generating the most interest in their show. But you know what I mean.

7:39 While diving for another sweet Virtuoso cross, Ngwenya careens head-first into the right post. They stop play, but he seems to be OK. Hopefully he doesn’t join the Crew Concussion Club. This reminds me, when I was in sixth grade, this guy on my rec soccer team slid into the post

7:40 Crowd cries “bullsh--!” about the offside call against Herron.

7:41 Virtuoso is SICK.

7:42 Heaps gets the best of Virtuoso for the first time tonight with a solid slide tackle that sends them both turfward. Also, welcome to the Wild Bean Shootout! As you may recall, this means we all get cookies from a gas station if the Crew scores in the last 10 minutes of the half.

7:45 Virtuoso remains sick, but Rusty Pierce looks utterly lost up in the offensive end. He lays it off to O’Rourke, who bungles it with a poor field-changing pass.

7:46 Twellman gets a way with a little handball action at midfield, dribbles to about 30 yards out and launches a blast straight into the bottom left corner. It’s his third goal of the year, and suddenly all this Crew brilliance is looking wasted. Still plenty of time to strike again before the half, though.

7:47 Wow, that Twellman goal was stellar.

7:50 Heaps blatantly knocks over Herron on the left side, landing the hack defender a yellow card. Taste it: the sweet nectar of justice.

7:52 Heaps went down in the box on the Crew’s free kick, and while he was being tended to, tensions flared a little bit between the squads. (Note: Postgame reports from people who watched the ESPN2 broadcast indicate that Herron looked Heaps straight in the eyes and slammed him in the face with his elbow. Well then.)

7:54 Stoppage time. They call Gonzalez on a weak bump, so the Revs get to keep attacking. The Crew manages to win a throw-in, but halftime kicks in before the allotted two minutes of stoppage finish up.

8:11 And we’re back! Ran to the opposite side of the stadium to check in with my parents. They had a close view of the left flank, and their observations mirrored mine. They pointed out just how amazing Virtuoso was, pulling playground dribbling tricks to fake out Heaps and company. They also noted Rusty Pierce’s shoddy play in the back. And Mom loves Love Sick Radio. She’s never seen such enthusiastic drumming.

8:14 Revs have had the best of the play so far this half, but even their constant

8:15 Grabavoy picks up a yellow for taking down Dorman. He remains on his ass for a while and gets up with a major limp. As in, a “he might actually be injured” limp.

8:16 Ralston’s free kick sets up a potentially dangerous header-cross, but Dandy Andy deals with it.

8:17 Virtuoso gets his head on the end of a wide cross, sending it back into the fray. New England handles it, but for a moment they seemed destined for an own goal.

8:19 A lot less action this half. The Crew needs to bring back first-half intensity.

8:20 Cristman outclasses Pierce and crosses to a wide open Khano Smith(I think?), whose shot goes wide.

8:21 Virtuoso is not owning the left flank this half. Bring back the sickness!

8:22 More tricks-are-for-kids from Ngwenya, but he loses it again. Hejduk, however, pulls off an amazing slide-get up-slide maneuver to win it back.

8:23 Herron turns and shoots from just outside the box. It seems ill-advised, but the ball sails perilously close to the top right corner.

8:25 Gaven makes a hardnosed win in traffic, then gets off a pass to a streaking Virtuoso, but the offside flag is up. The stats guy reports 36 minutes since the last Crew shot.

8:26 NE sends Wells Thompson in for Smith.

8:27 Brad Evans enters for Virtuoso. Even if Ricky V. is gassed, as he appears to be, he might be more valuable than Evans based on the dude’s minutes on opening day. Perhaps he will prove his worth tonight.

8:29 Cristman takes a dive and gets a foul called on Ezra. Dandy Andy punches the freekick out for a Revs corner.

8:30 Twellman’s header on the corner kick doesn’t connect. It still looks dangerous, though.

8:32 Pat Noonan enters for Cristman, and it hits me: Why isn’t Noonan starting? Has he been hurt? Dude has been a beast in this league for years. His presence does not bode well for the Crew. (Side note: Dudes in Local 103 have this massive checkered flag, and when they wave it, nobody in the press box can see a damn thing. But it’s hard to hate on such a marvelous flag.)

8:33 Crew offense is stagnant. Meanwhile, stats lady announces that Twellman has broken the record for most consecutive starts by a forward with 36, a record he previously shared with Jaime Moreno.

8:35 Kei Kamara comes on for Ngwenya. Let’s see if he can be as dangerous as last week.

8:36 Tonight’s attendance: 13,290. That seems kind of generous once again, but the crowd has filled in a bit since kickoff.

8:37 Kamara switches fields to nobody. This half is particularly painful after that thrilling first stanza.

8:40 Gaven beats the offside traps and rips the most embarrassing shot of the season. Granted, he was shooting from a harsh angle, but that was one awful, awful strike.

8:41 Hello, Noonan. He breaks into the box and lays it square to Twellman, but Dandy Andy nabs a serious save on the point-blank shot.

8:42 Yellow for Larentowicz. Big free kick here for the Crew. Aaaand… nada.

8:43 Kamara gets off a solid cross from the left corner, which no Crew guys get to, but the Revs nod it out for a fruitless corner.

8:45 Offensive foray from Ezra leads to some major pinball in the box. Crew corner emerges. Tension is high. Knocked out for another corner. No dice. Fan below the press box exclaims “You guys suck!”

8:46 Crew needs to get it together NOW if they want to win this thing. On the plus side, it’s time once again for the WILD BEAN SHOOTOUT!

8:47 Hejduk must have picked up a yellow, but I missed it. Sorry, burying my face in my hands.

8:48 Pierce switches fields with all the grace of Jason Schwartzman hitting on Shannon Elizabeth in American Pie, then blows his... um... chance.

8:50 Good through-ball to Grabavoy, but he’s too close to the goal line to do anything but knock the ball into Reis.

8:51 Crew corner connects with somebody’s head and bounds out of the box. Ensuing Crew attack, Kamara SCORES! It’s his first of the season, assisted by Hejduk. Great work from Frankie there.

8:52 Four minutes before stoppage time, and no reason to think this one has been decided. It’s pretty electric in here.

8:54 Kamara is, inexplicably, fiddling with the dead ball and wasting time.

8:55 Crew on the breakaway! Gaven threads the pass to Kamara in the box, and…offside! D’oh.

8:56 Crew, too eager to advance upfield, allows New England an offensive sequence, but they blast it over the top.

8:57 Stoppage time. Herron gets tied up. No call.

8:58 Crew on the breakaway, but it’s Rusty Pierce (gulp)…and he squanders it.

8:59 Evans on the break, instead of going central, passes out to Ezra, who screws up big time. Two minutes gone from stoppage. Larentowicz is rolling around wasting time. Yellow for Pierce; not sure if it’s for fouling somebody before or complaining.

9:00 Game over. 2-2 tie. In the words of Kanye West, “How could you let this HAPPEN…Happen… happen…?”