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Sep 202012

I’m havin’ such a good time!

Ahhh…good to get a little Queen in every now and then.

But in all seriousness, that’s probably how Crew winger Justin Meram felt after he scored the game winner in the 90th minute against Chivas USA on Wednesday night. It was a well deserved goal for the second year player out of Michigan. It was also well deserved for the Crew as a whole.

After a rocky first half that saw Chivas create their fair share of chances against a shaky back line, Columbus came out in the second half and dominated possession looking for that elusive goal they needed to earn three points and leap frog DC United for the 5th and final playoff spot in the East. Once again, it was Federico Higuain and Jairo Arrieta getting things started at the point of attack for the Crew. Despite the large advantage in possession, Columbus failed to convert a number of half chances until Meram came on with about ten minutes to go and got on the end of a goalmouth scramble and crushed a shot that was deflected, but ultimately wound up in the back of the net. Meram also showed his lack of concern for yellow cards as he got lost in the moment and removed his shirt in celebration. Unwise, but it can be forgiven since Columbus was so desperate for three points.

Meram has quietly turned into a spark of life off the bench. He’s quick and a great dribbler and always seems to find himself in the thick of things whenever Columbus scores. The goal was his fourth this season. He’s quickly becoming one of my favorite players on this current Crew roster. Even going back to his rookie season last year, he seemed to say all the right things and really make the most of his opportunities to play. I’m still torn as to whether or not I believe he’d be more effective as a starter or a super sub off the bench. Only time will tell.

And speaking of time, there isn’t much for Columbus to celebrate. Saturday the Black And Gold will travel to Chicago. The Fire have quietly ascended to second place in the Eastern Conference, but they will be without their star playmaker Marco Pappa who shocked everyone in that organization by transferring to Heerenveen in the Netherlands after it was originally reported he would not leave until January. Still, Chicago are a dangerous side and they have a bit of an edge over the Crew in recent history. A win would certianly be MASSIVE, but a draw also wouldn’t be the end of the world either.

Let’s hope the momentum doesn’t slow down for Meram and his teammates!




Gut Check Time (Crew 1-3 New York)

 Posted by on September 16, 2012 at 10:20 am  Blogs/Media, Columbus Crew, MLS, United States
Sep 162012

It took Columbus all of three minutes to get on the board against New York and regain the swagger they had played with for seven matches in 21 days back in August.

And then Thierry Henry put an end to it all.

Henry answered with an equalizer six minutes after Milovan Mirosevic opened the scoring for Columbus. The French DP forward got in behind Chad Marshall, trapped a long, lofted pass, and poked it past Andy Gruenebaum for the score. Henry would eventually seal the deal in stoppage time with a corner kick that needed no assistance from any other player on the field to find its way into the back of the net. About 15 minutes before that New York had taken the lead 2-1 off a corner kick goal that resulted in Gruenebaum smashing his face into the post and having to be substituted as a precaution.

It was a night where, aside from Milo’s goal, very little seemed to go right for Columbus and we saw their flaws truly exposed. In years past, a solid back line has been the foundation for success in Columbus. Now it seems even Chad Marshall is having his struggles and all is not well in defense for Columbus. Henry easily got inside the head of Julius James last night. James continues to disappoint and I wonder how long it will take for someone like Danny O’Rourke or even Eric Gehrig to take his spot. If Columbus are to make a run to the playoffs, the back line needs to be fixed ASAP.

And then there was the noticeable absence of Federico Higuain. The team has said he was kept out of the starting lineup due to an injection in his toe. While they didn’t look nearly as threatening without him, Columbus still created enough chances to keep former Crew goalkeeper Bill Gaudette active all night against his former team. Eddie Gaven continues to be the man everyone will look to in Higuain’s absence. Justin Meram created several chances out  of nothing with his dribbling skills off the bench. He replaced a very unhappy Dilly Duka who never quite got into the flow of things.

While the loss drops Columbus two points behind DC United (and only four behind Houston for fourth place) for the last playoff spot in the East, there are still plenty of opportunities to catch up. Although it’s a short turnaround, the Crew can look forward to welcoming a dreadful Chivas USA side into Crew Stadium on Wednesday night and next Saturday brings a trip to Chicago. The Crew also have matches against Eastern Conference foes Philadelphia, Kansas City, and DC United remaining on the schedule.

Saturday’s loss was bad, but all is not lost just yet. A win on Wednesday night against Chivas is very possible and as we saw in August all it takes is one little spark to get things going.



Sep 072012

Well it’s true!

Even the most ardent Crew supporters wouldn’t tell you they thought the team would run the table the rest of the season. Quite frankly, I’m surprised it was the final game of a “7 in 21 days” stretch that ultimately caught up to the Crew. This team has been battling injuries all season and I had concerns about such a difficult stretch for the Black And Yellow.

I must admit, I was not able to view this match in its entirety either. I know, I’m slipping! Luckily I’m getting out of retail and back into 9-5 hours! The major talking point seems to be Chad Marshall’s own goal that doubled New England’s lead. It was very uncharacteristic of the Columbus captain, although Crew haters will try to tell you that his lack of speed (exposed during that fateful error) is what ultimately keeps him from starring for the US Men’s National Team. Personally, I think it was tired legs catching up with the Stanford product. The same goes for the rest of the team. The high had to wear off at some point. Did it come against a lousy team? Yes, but that’s irrelevant.

What’s important now is focusing on September 15′s trip to New York. The Crew have nine days off to rest up and prepare. The significance of this turn of events cannot be overstated. What this team needs more than anything is to get healthy. It’s a miracle nothing happened to Jairo Arrieta, Federico Higuain, or the Ageless One Eddie Gaven. Beyond New York, Columbus has a lot of matches down the stretch with fellow Eastern Conference playoff contenders (Sporting KC and DC United chief among them) so they really need time off get prepared physically and (more importantly) mentally for the regular season finale.

So yes, Wednesday night’s loss as disappointing. But it was also necessary. Now the team can recover and prepare for the next wave. Let’s hope Higuain and Arrieta are up to the challenge!




The Real MVP (Crew 2-1 Montreal)

 Posted by on September 3, 2012 at 10:56 pm  Columbus Crew, MLS
Sep 032012

More on this mystery man in a moment.

First, let’s celebrate Saturday night’s thrilling victory! Emilio Renteria got his dome on a cross from The Other Higuain in stoppage time as Columbus defeated the only team hotter than themselves 2-1. Montreal had won five straight heading into Saturday night’s affair and were spot one ahead of Columbus in the Eastern Conference standings.

The visitors took an early lead, but Columbus bounced back as Chad Marshall headed home a goal of his own, also courtesy of Federico Higuain, to level the score. Then Emilio Renteria, who has had a sub-par, injury plagued season so far, created a little magic in stoppage time and showed us why he’s the best at celebrating goals with a spicy little number at the corner flag.

Full disclosure: I did not get a chance to view this game in its entirety. I only saw the highlight package from MLS. But that’s okay, because I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to talk  about the true MVP of the Columbus Crew.

The man in that picture is Columbus Crew Technical Director Brian Bliss. The Technical Director is essentially the head of soccer operations for an MLS team. They deal almost entirely in personnel matters from the youth levels all the way to the senior team. It is the TD’s job to scout, draft, sign, etc all players for their respective teams. Bliss was hired for this position in January of 2008; the year Columbus won its first and only MLS Cup. Now Columbus had already signed club legend Guillermo Barros Schelotto a year earlier, but  Bliss has drafted the likes of Dilly Duka, Justin Meram, Rich Balchan, Cole Grossman and signed Sebastian Miranda, Milovan Mirosevic, Jairo Arrieta, and Federico Higuain. He has also played a hand in signing Columbus’ three Homegrown Players: GK Matt Lampson, ST Aaron Horton, and MD Ben Speas. Columbus’ Academy teams are highly rated across the country.

Every move this club has made since the beginning of its championship season has been partially orchestrated by Brian Bliss. Not all of them have been stellar. Guys like Jeff Cunningham, Andres Mendoza, and Sergio Herrera have been MASSIVE flops recently. These signings were made after the team made the difficult decision to cut ties with aging veterans like Frankie Hejduk, Gino Padula, and Guillermo Barros Schelotto. These players were crucial to the 2008 MLS Cup run and they were all adored by Columbus supporters. But Bliss and General Manager Mark McCullers had to look to the future and they ultimately made the right call. Bliss has since redeemed himself with the signings of Arrieta and Higuain with the latter taking quite a while to sign a deal.

But Bliss and his office persevered and now Higuain is the catalyst behind a resurgent Crew side looking to extend its streak of consecutive seasons with a playoff appearance that started back in ’08. Not only that, but draft picks like Duka, Meram, and (when he’s healthy) Balchan and homegrown signings like Lampson (who made his first appearance with the first team recently) and Speas (out since the offseason with an abdominal injury) project a bright future for the team.

So give the man behind the scenes a round of applause Crew fans. We wouldn’t be the same team without him.



Aug 302012

Score us a goal tonight!

‘Cus we’re all in the mood for a victory

And you’ve got us feeling alright!     

One blog post cannot speak to everything that happened in last night’s 2-1 victory in Philadelphia, so for now we’ll stick with the result.

After missing a sitter earlier in the second half, Eddie Gaven made sure not to fluff his (and the Crew’s) final chance of the evening just moments before the final whistle blew. Justin Meram fired a low, hard shot that took a kind deflection and fell right at The Bearded One’s feet and he made sure Columbus left town with three points in hand. Perhaps the deflection was well deserved after Columbus surrendered their goal off of an unkind deflection on a free kick in the first half. Sandwiched in between those two goals, Josh Williams got his head on a Federico Higuain free kick and directed it just inside the post to level the score at 1-1.

Unfortunately for Williams, he would not get the chance to celebrate Gaven’s goal on the field. In the second half Williams received a red card for shoving Philadelphia’s Antoine Hoppenot during a dead ball situation behind the play. He really has no one to blame but himself and he admitted as much afterwards. Williams has a fiery streak to him and in a pivotal moment in a crucial match he let his emotions get the best of him. Fortunately, Gaven was there to save the day at the end.

But the man of the match (as voted by Crew fans watching last night) had to be rookie goalkeeper Matt Lampson. The Ohio State/Crew Academy product stepped in for injured starter Andy Gruenebaum (who has been stepping in for the real No.1, William Hesmer) and came up with some MASSIVE saves after Williams was tossed and the Crew went down to 10 men. It seems goalkeeper is one position the Crew need not worry about.

So what else did we learn from last night’s thrilling victory?


-There’s something very unlikable about Josh Williams. He was busted for using performance enhancing drugs last season and his hair/general attitude just make him a very rough character.

-Matt Lampson would not be needed so much if the Crew could figure out what to do about Chad Marshall’s center back partner. Carlos Mendes is gone for another 4-6 weeks and I no longer trust Julius James or Danny O’Rourke. Now may not be the best time to tinker with the lineup, but I’d like to see Eric Gehrig get another shot.

-I’m still not convinced Chris Birchall is the No.1 guy for that CDM spot, even when paired with Milo Mirosevic.


-Columbus proved they can win even without goals from Higuain and Jairo Arrieta.

-For all his unlikeable-ness, Josh Williams works his tail off and he earned that goal.

-Justin Meram showed more flashes of brilliance, especially with his effort that led to Gaven’s winner. It took a big stop from the keeper to keep that ball out.

-3 POINTS!!!


Last night was a classic Columbus Crew performance. Even when the odds are stacked against them, this team will NEVER quit. There can be no doubt that there are forces beyond our control working behind the scenes right now as the MASSIVE club are coming together at exactly the right time and getting results they so desperately need to make the playoffs. With last night’s win the Crew have 39 points which puts them a mere three behind Houston for third place in the East. That’s right: THIRD PLACE is only three points away! Not only that, but Columbus also still haven’t caught up to the rest of the league in terms of games played.

Saturday means a trip back to Columbus to take on Montreal, who also have 39 points but have played three more games as well. This is another must win for Columbus. Tired legs will start to kick in this weekend, but there’s a light coming at the end of the tunnel. After hosting Montreal Saturday, the Crew have one more quick turnaround as they make a trip to New England next Wednesday night. A win against Montreal will allow for a draw against New England.

After that the lads can take a nice, long 10 day break before a MASSIVE trip to Red Bull Arena.

Then things will really get interesting.





Aug 272012

Yes, The Other Higuain scored two fantastic free kicks…

But let’s show some love for the birthday boy!

Jairo Arrieta celebrated his 29th birthday by scoring the game winner for Columbus as they erased a 2-0 first half deficit against the New England Revolution and went on to win 4-3. The Costa Rican striker saved what would have been a disastrous result had New England’s late PK goal held up.

Even though I found myself sighing in relief, it seemed like Saturday night was going to be Columbus’ night the moment Federico Higuain netted the first of two free kick goals to cut an early 2-0 deficit in half. As always, there was much we can learn from Saturday night’s contest. Let’s start with the negative…


-The backline continues to struggle. Chad Marshall is getting up there in age, but he also can’t seem to find a suitable partner in the center of the defense.

-Carlos Mendes has missed a large portion of this season with a hamstring injury and he had to leave in the middle of the first half for…a hamstring injury.

-Andy Gruenebaum also had to check out due to a lower back contusion.

-While the PK call was incredibly soft, Julius James did have his arms draped around his man in the box. James is constantly flirting with danger, whether it’s fighting for a loose ball in the box or simply trying to clear a cross. I’d feel better if Mendes was healthy.

-Until Higuain’s first goal, it looked like Columbus was going to fold under the weight of heavy legs. This schedule has been incredibly taxing and you wonder if it will continue to take it’s toll on Wednesday night at Philadelphia.


-Higuain single handedly saved the night for Columbus with not one, but two incredibly well taken free kicks. He wasn’t necessarily brought in to score goals, but he’s done a terrific job so far and one can only hope he can continue to stay hot down the stretch.

-Because Higuain is not the go-to goal scorer, it was great to see Arrieta net twice. I really enjoyed his first one in particular as he just seemed to vent all his frustrations into one powerful shot. He’ll need to be “The Guy” up top if a playoff run is in the cards.

-Eddie Gaven and Dilly Duka looked to be very much in sync with the Dynamic Duo of Arrieta and Higuain. The biggest issue for Columbus has been the lack of a consistent Starting XI, but I think we’re finally close to seeing one.

-Three points are better than one. Especially when DC United loses 3-0 at the hands of a lesser foe. There’s still much work to be done, but the significance of Columbus winning instead of drawing cannot be overstated.


Federico Higuain is excellent at free kicks.


No, the biggest takeaway is that the Crew have managed to avoid a loss so far in this brutal six game stretch. Wednesday means a trip to Philly and that is a very winnable match given their current roster woes. A draw would be incredibly disappointing. While the backline continues to struggle, there seems to be a bit of magic in the air (possibly courtesy of the late Kirk Urso) that has this team getting results when they need them the most. MLS is required to have one team get hot in August and September and sneak into the playoffs and while I tend to despise such a team, this year it seems Columbus are headed in that direction. It would only be fair given their epic collapse right around this time last season.




Aug 232012

It took Federico Higuain less than 90 minutes to score his first MLS goal for the Columbus Crew as they defeated Toronto FC 2-1. The Argentine forward made his first start for the Black And Yellow after coming on as a halftime sub against Houston on Sunday; a game in which he also looked to provide an attacking spark that the Crew have so desperately desired.

(And for those wondering, I am not David Burgin. Unfortunately David will no longer be covering Columbus for GFT but fear not! I may blog for Liverpool as well, but I grew up in Columbus so I am well versed in all things MASSIVE)

So let’s reset the scene for a moment: Last night’s victory was the third match for Columbus in the last seven days. They tied LA 1-1 last Wednesday and gave away two points on Sunday night in Houston thanks to the Hebrew Hammer’s fumblerooski. Saturday night New England comes to town and then comes Philadelphia. The Crew are currently seven points behind DC United for the last playoff spot in the East but also have one less game played. So in other words: these next two (very much winnable) matches against New England and Philly are truly MASSIVE.

But back to last night.

Higuain’s second half goal proved to be the difference as Toronto did manage to pull one back. The Crew’s first goal came from Eddie Gaven in the fourth minute when his shot from outside the box received a fortuitous deflection. Call it karma repaying the Crew for Andy Gruenebaum’s blunder on Sunday.

So what did we learn from this match?


-The back four continue to struggle to look cohesive. The defending leading up to Toronto’s goal was criminal. Why the normally stout Chard Marshall is having difficulty holding things together at the back is beyond me. Your guess is as good as mine.

-It probably also doesn’t help that Chris Birchall hasn’t played superb at the holding midfield spot. In my opinion this is Columbus’ biggest need right now. When they had possession they looked dangerous, but they need someone who can get back to help the back four and retrieve the ball. And no, I don’t necessarily think Tony Tchani is the answer either. Cole Grossman has only played a couple times this season so I’m willing to give him more time to prove himself.

-Jairo Arrieta continues to struggle in front of goal. He might be pressing a bit too much, but he had several poor first touches in the box last night and he failed to create any dangerous shots. I’m not worried though as he and Higuain and Eddie Gaven are forming a formidable trio in the final third right now. They’ll only get better with time.

-The crowd certainly left a lot to be desired, but to be fair this was a Wednesday night makeup game. It hasn’t been on the schedule all year and it never would have occurred if not for Kirk Urso’s tragic death. And as I told a buddy of mine: it’s one thing to have a sparse crowd, it’s another to have it in a stadium built for 25,000 when most of today’s new stadiums around the league are built for less than 20K.


-The Other Higuain has been a huge difference maker since his arrival. He has the kind of technical ability that can make most MLS defenders extremely nervous. He also seems to have a nose for goal whether he’s scoring himself and setting someone else up a la Sunday night’s second half goal against Houston. And the best part is that he’s only 27! He’s got a chance to be the next Guillermo only for a much longer period of time.

-Eddie Gaven continues to find the ball at his feet with an opportunity to score and he continues to take advantage. Hard to believe he’s only 25, but the Bearded One is getting hot at the right time for Columbus.

-As I said before, when they held possession the Crew were quite dangerous. Things finally seeming to be coming together with the arrival of Higuain and there’s a lot to be excited about going forward; especially the upcoming opponents.


The defense struggled mightily at times last night, but ultimately Columbus got the three points they so desperately need at this point in the season. I really liked the Starting XI that was chosen, but I would probably swap either Tchani or Grossman in for Birchall and Dilly Duka or Justin Meram for Emilio Renteria. The biggest issue for Columbus this season has been failing to field a consistent Starting XI due to injuries. I think last night showed us the best combination going forward and if they can all play together consistently then I think this team is capable of getting hot down the stretch and finding a way into the playoffs. With New England and Philadelphia coming up next, anything less than six points could be devastating.