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Crew scores early, late, takes points

August 21, 2010 | 6:44 pm No comments
By Shaun Schafer

The disastrous middle third of the season came to a soggy end Saturday evening as the Columbus Crew blew by the Colorado Rapids 3-1.

Columbus scored early on a dubious call, in the middle on a defensive lapse and late on an unmarked header. It was a lost night in the rain for the Rapids.

Colorado fell to 7-6-7 (28 points) and joined the ranks of playoff wannabes. Columbus remained atop the Eastern Conference and in control of its destiny.

After a sparkling 6-3-1 start, the Rapids have now gone 1-3-6 in the past 10 matches.

The Game: Second half substitute Steven Lenhart delivered the dagger with an 80th minute header that put the Crew up 3-1. Lenhart was unmarked as the free kick came in from Guillermo Barros Schelotto on the right side to the far side and back across.

Columbus had gone back in front in the 53rd minute off a Jason Garey goal. Garey stepped on to an attempted header to the keeper from defender Marvell Wynne. Garey, who was nonexistent in the first half, seemed to come alive after the shot. He nearly doubled the margin in the 66th, only to have his goal waved off for offsides.

Captain Pablo Mastroeni provided the only scoring for Colorado. He scored the sort of goal that defensive midfielders dream of at practice. Just as the first half was coming to an end, Mastroeni and Mehdi Ballouchy played a quick combination in the middle of the field near the 18-yard box. The give and go freed Mastroeni with the ball on his right leg, his defender on the wrong foot and only keeper Will Hesmer to beat. Mastroeni delivered an arrow to the back of the net.

It would be the lone highlight for a team that would put in nine corner kicks on the night and register no shots on goal in any of those chances.

Columbus scored first off one of the softest penalty kick calls of the season. Matt Pickens and Eddie Gaven came together in the box. Gaven, who would have needed the wings of Mercury to get the ball, was awarded the kick. Schelotto did the rest, putting the Crew on top in the 6th minute.

Columbus nearly doubled its margin in the 33rd minute. Schelotto ran on to a short corner and sent it into the 6-yard box. Pickens emerged with the ball in the resulting scramble, but it made for nervous moments.

Omar Cummings almost brought the Rapids back even in the 36th minute. He got room to run on the left side, went at the defender, shimmied to the left and fired wide of the far side. A minute later, Wynne attacked in the middle of the field and then fired just wide.

Yellow: Frankie Hejduk picked up a yellow card in the 22nd minute for an awkward tackle on Cummings. Andy Moffat earned his for a lumbering tackle on Drew Moor in the 75th minute.

Lineup: The Rapids returned to the 4-4-2 with Conor Casey and Cummings up top. With the move, Gary Smith went to a big back line. Wynne on the right, Moor on the left and Scott Palguta and Julien Baudet in the middle.

Rapids 11: Pickens, Wynne, Baudet, Palguta, Moor, Wells Thompson (Jamie Smith, 69th), Jeff Larentowicz, Mastroeni, Ballouchy (Claudio Lopez, 76th), Cummings (Quincy Amarikwa, 83rd), Casey.

Record Player: Mastroeni tied Chris Henderson for the team record with his 170th start. He set the record for minutes played a week earlier against the Philadelphia Union, which passed Henderson. Mastroeni celebrated with his sixth career goal and second of the season.

Crew 11: Hesmer, Francis, Iro, Marshall, Hejduk, Ekpo, O’Rourke, Moffat, Gaven, Schelotto, Garey (Steven Lenhart, 77th).

Final Third: The Rapids have wilted in the final third of the field as the team as suffered for goals. Now, the most important final third awaits. The Rapids have 10 games left this season and they are clinging to the playoffs. Six of those 10 games are at home. Five of those six are against teams trailing the Rapids in the standings. It’s not hard to do the math — win at home, or stay home.

Next: The Rapids return to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to face the Houston Dynamo at 7:30 p.m. Houston is currently going nowhere in the league. Colorado could help the Dynamo along that road.

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