Crew midfielder Robert Warzycha (right) makes a pass ahead of Wizard midfielder Preki in the first half of Sunday`s 5-3 Crew victory.
Crew forward Stern John, who sat on the bench for the first half brewing, came on in the second half and exploded to help the Crew spank the visiting Kansas City Wizard`s 5-3 in front of 11,922 fans, Sunday. Stern John tallied three goals in the match. Two of the goals came off of Andrew Williams crosses, giving Williams five assists in just four matches with the Crew. “The two balls played to Stern were great,” Fitzgerald said. “He`s a special player with great vision.”Stern`s third goal came after the Crew took a quick start on a penalty kick at the top of the Wizard`s penalty box. Brian McBride bumped a pass to Ansil Elcock who passed up a one-on-one shot with Kansas City goalie Mike Ammann, and dumped the ball to his cousin John who punched home a shot into an empty net.”I guess he was content with an assist and he gave me a gift,” John said of Elcock.John`s hat trick was his third of the year, and was the third fastest three goal effort in Major League Soccer history. He achieved the feat in less than ten minutes.John now has 15 goals on the year, just two behind McBride`s team record 17 goals in a season. “He`s amazing,” Crew team captain Thomas Dooley said. “He`s a guy who doesn`t need a lot of chances to score goals. It`s good to know that he`s back.”After the match John said that he was disappointed that he was benched for the first half.”I`ve got everything,” John said. “I just want to do my job and score goals for the team.”Fitzgerald was happy with John`s reaction to sitting the bench for a half.”He dealt with it great because he came in and played a great second half,” Fitzgerald said.Jeff Cunningham, who got the nod from Crew coach Tom Fitzgerald to start in place of John, started the Crew off in seventh minute with a right footed rocket into the corner past Mike Ammann. “Jeff tied the game for us the other night against the MetroStars so I felt he deserved a start,” Fitzgerald said. “It worked out great. Jeff came out in the first half and scored a great goal for us.”Cunningham was not complaining but was a bit surprised to get the start.”For some reason the coach decided to bench the leading scorer on the team,” Cunningham said. “That says that he [Fitzgerald] has a lot of confidence in me. The longer you`re in the league the more you should realize that nothing should surprise you.”In addition to John`s second half hat-trick and Cunningham`s first half goal, the Crew got a gift from the Wizards when defender Sean Bowers headed a Robert Warzycha cross into his own net.”I`m just happy to get the three points,” Fitzgerald said. “To be honest with you, I don`t care how we get them.”Although the Crew won by two, the Wizard`s controlled much of the game. They equalized twice to tie the Crew at 1-1 and at 2-2, and took the lead 2-3 in the 77th minute.”The team with transition usually is the team that wins,” Fitzgerald said. “Today we had it, so we won.” The victory ties the two teams at one win a piece in the battle for bragging rights to the “Lamar Hunt Cup”. Crew owner Lamar Hunt is also the owner of the Wizards. The three point victory pulls the Crew to within two points of the second place New York / New Jersey MetroStars and ten points ahead of the Miami Heat in Eastern Conference.With only nine matches remaining in the season the Crew need to extend their dominance at home to their road matches. They are now an impressive 8-3 in the Horseshoe and only 3-9 on the road. The Crew will finish the season with four road matches road and five at home.”It`s true that we play a good game at home but for some reason we just can`s seem to score that well on the road,” Dooley said. “We need to take advantage of our opportunities when we have them and work together as a team.” The Crew`s next match is in the `Shoe`, August 22 at 7:30 p.m., against the Tampa Bay Mutiny.