Sunday, August 22, 2004


Nails on a Chalkboard

The Crew once again wasted an opportunity to climb into the driver's seat in the Eastern Conference, giving up a late penalty and accepting a 2-2 draw versus DC United. The tie brings the Crew's unbeaten streak to a record-tying nine games and moves us two points back of the Metrostars heading into their showdown next Sunday in the Swamp, but reminded all who follow this club just how blah this season has been. The recap:

* Everything old is new again. We got a very good performance out of the starting lineup, but bad decisions took a relatively easy win and gave DC a point that was not indicative of the play on the field. Eskandarian's goal was a blinder and Busch could do nothing with it, but the foul which set up the free kick was just DUMB. Then, late in the game and with DC attacking yet getting nowhere, we give up a penalty kick on a handball in the box. Again, avoidable. So both of DC's goals came from set pieces and instead of trotting out with a win, we get one point for our effort.

* Danger, Will Robinson. The late-game collapses which were such a large part of our collapse in 2003 are starting to show their ugly head again. After going almost four months without giving up a goal after the 75th minute, we have surrended game-tying goals after that mark in consecutive games (we did pull back one in the KC game to get out with full points, though). We were outplayed late in both games and were fortunate to get four points out of the week rather than two.

* Where were the SUBS?!?! Andrulis has once AGAIN frustrated this writer with his inability to sub strategically on a consistent basis. We used just two of our three switches, bringing on Cunningham for Buddle in the 81st minute and Szetela for Akwari in the 88th, both after the tying marker and much too late for either to have an impact on getting a win. This keep-your-job-at-all-costs mentality has turned this mild affliction of bad in-game management into an outright epidemic. I honestly think Greg just doesn't know HOW to effectively sub at the professional level with a limited number of chances and no re-entry (as opposed to the rules for substitutions in college, which allow for a little more tinkering and opportunity to correct in-match mistakes) and holds onto his subs too long because of that.

The Crew has slowly but surely made its way past the two-thirds pole with a seven-point gap on last place in the East (which to me seems to be the ultimate goal this season rather than winning the conference or playing in MLS Cup) and barring a late-season collapse, post-season soccer should be visiting Crew Stadium this year. But is it too much to ask that our goals be JUST a little higher than this, especially when the top of the league mountain is SO CLOSE (five points back from the Galaxy and Wizards for the supporters' shield with a game in hand on KC and two on LA) and this team is capable of getting there? Oh well, let's see if this team has the intestinal fortitude to take the conference lead next Sunday or whether they will be content with riding home in second.

I hear your frustration about Greg's extremely-late substitutions. I'm a little behind in data entry, but I've put together a utility on SoccerCapitalNews that charts when each MLS team makes it's subs. We're tied with New England in terms of latest subs made. Most teams tend to make the most changes between the 60th and 70th minutes - while the Crew by far make the most after the 80th minute, usually the 85th.

Maybe Andrulis is just a reactive guy - wait until the other team makes a change, then counter with one of your own...
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