In front of 16,528 Crew fans, the Black and Gold drew 1-1 with the San Jose Earthquakes to go 1-1-1 on the 2013 campaign. Not the result that they necessarily wanted, but better than a loss. Eddie Gaven missed his first home opener since the 2006 season.
The Crew showed an improved effort with their passing and play compared to one week ago in Vancouver. They utilized time and space to their advantage, spreading the San Jose defense to get behind them. The first half saw the Crew creating chances more so than San Jose, although they were unable to capitalize on them. As is the case more and more, Federico Higuain drew double coverage. With Ben Speas in the lineup for the injured Gaven, this created openings for the Crew Homegrown Player.
Head Coach Robert Warzycha on Speas, "that’s why I think Ben Speas was very successful inside because they (Higuain and Speas) switched roles. Speas was more inside than outside and that’s why we found Ben instead of Higuain – we planned that before the game."
The first half ended with the clubs tied at 0-0. If anything, it seemed to get a bit colder and more windy after that.
The second half started with fast paced, end to end runs by both teams. Unlike recent matches, Warzycha made his subs earlier with Tony Tchani coming in for Agustin Viana at 61' and Ethan Finlay stepping on for Dominic Oduro at 63'. During a roughly seven minute stretch from 60' to 67', San Jose kept some sustained pressure on the Crew. At the 68' mark, the Crew got a corner kick awarded. Higuain sent a beautiful ball into the box, which Glauber proceeded to head past San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch.
The celebration was short lived, as the Earthquakes Morrow sent a rocket past the Hebrew Hammer from outside the box at 74'. Tied at 1-1, the game became a battle against the elements.
Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, "I think, honestly, we let the game get away from us a little bit. Even though we scored a goal, we weren't as sound in the second half, possession-wise. We made a few mistakes here and there. We have to win the games at home and I don't know if the weather was that much of a factor. Both teams had to deal with it. We're going to move forward and prepare for DC (United). No one's going to panic. There's teams in far worse situations, I'm sure."
The Columbus Crew is still a team trying to gel the chemistry among the players on the pitch. You can see it in the passing, as it's getting better every match. The addition of players such as Arrieta and Higuain, among others, shows that the vision is there. It all comes down to execution of the play. That is where the team will find more goals falling their way.
Far from a rebuild, this club is a work in progress. Hard work and communication will pay dividends throughout the season. With the sublime leadership of Federico Higuain, this team can realize his statement of "All of the Playoff". His vision and tactical sense should guide this club on a course from which anything is possible. If the MLS Cup could be hoisted by sheer will-power alone, his hands would already be grasping it.
The season is young, so hold on tight. You're in for a wild ride with the Black and Gold in 2013.