Chris Uhler / The Lantern
“The Strength of the Pack Is the Wolf. The Strength of the Wolf Is the Pack.”
A sign bearing this mantra hangs just inside the entrance to the Columbus Crew locker room. Never has its meaning been more on display than in the 2-0 Crew victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy Saturday night.
With the Galaxy’s lone wolf, David Beckham, not making the trip to Columbus with his team because of an ankle injury, the Crew cruised to victory with a starting lineup devoid of its top scorer, Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
Following the victory, Crew coach Robert Warzycha summed up his “no man is above the team” mentality.
“We don’t have reserves,” he said. “We have 23 players right now that can step up anytime.”
On a dark and rainy night, less than an hour after the Buckeyes’ victory over Illinois, the conditions were prime for a subdued crowd. The raucous fans in Crew Stadium’s Nordecke, however, would not let that be.
As pyrotechnics erupted, the Crew players made their way onto the field through a tunnel of supporters while black-and-gold-clad fans cheered wildly from the northeast corner of the stadium.
This particular section of the crowd brought the energy to a fever pitch early with a variety of chants, cheers and songs that reverberated throughout the stadium from start to finish.
Less than five minutes into the match, the fans in the Nordecke were chanting, “Where’s the Spice Boy?” in reference to the absent Beckham, husband of Posh Spice.
Crew midfielder Eddie Gaven kicked off the scoring in the 33rd minute with a slick header off a pass from Emmanuel Ekpo following a free kick.
Forward Steven Lenhart, who spent much of the match being knocked to the ground, made the last goal for the Crew with a soft shot off a rebound that Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts couldn’t handle.
The only significant scoring opportunity for the Galaxy came off a free kick, which was tapped by Galaxy star Landon Donovan to Chris Birchall. Birchall’s shot took a hard bounce off the left post and the follow-up shot sailed high above the goal.
It was a chippy, physical game in which eight yellow cards were issued. Crew team captain Frankie Hejduk received one for a reckless tackle in which he and another Crew player sandwiched Donovan. The yellow card will result in Hejduk’s suspension for the Crew’s next match.
At one point, during a free kick for the Crew, the referee stopped play to admonish players from both teams who were roughly jockeying for position.
When asked about the scrappy game and the physical play of Lenhart in particular, Warzycha said, “I don’t think there were any cheap fouls. I think this guy (Lenhart), he likes this kind of game.”
With the victory, the Crew (12-4-10) remains atop the Eastern conference and pushes its home unbeaten streak in the MLS to 22. The Galaxy (10-6-11) also holds steady in its second-place position in the Western conference.
Following the game, the Crew players saluted the ‘blackout’ effort of the announced, sellout crowd of 20,966 by joining hands and taking a bow. Several players also tossed jerseys to eager fans.