March 28, 2009 MLS Columbus Crew vs Toronto FC (from Staff)

Crew disappointed in draw with Reds
Columbus settles for 1-1 draw after own goal in 84th minute
By Craig Merz / Staff

COLUMBUS -- A split-second decision by Columbus Crew defender Gino Padula was all it took for a victory in the home opener Saturday to turn into a disappointing 1-1 tie with Toronto FC in Crew Stadium. The Crew were holding onto the lead provided by a Guillermo Barros Schelotto penalty kick in the 30th minute when misfortune struck in the 84th.

Dwayne De Rosario sent a cross into the middle of the Crew penalty area and Padula was about to settle under the ball and knock it to the ground when he caught Toronto forward and fellow Argentinean Pablo Vitti out of the corner of his eye.

"I saw Vitti behind me so I went up to hit the ball instead," said Padula.

The ball went off the crossbar and goalkeeper William Hesmer into the net to give Columbus its second consecutive 1-1 deadlock to open the season.

"I tried to clear the ball and I put it in the top corner," Padula said. "Sometimes it happens in football. I was pretty unlucky. Of course, I don't want to score an own goal. I tried to clear the ball and flick the ball. I'm not apologetic because that sometimes happens in soccer. I'm not happy because we worked hard for 90 minutes and got one point."

It was a sickening feeling for the Crew to watch the ball go across the goal line.

"It's just unlucky, even more so if it's a defender (heading it). The goalie doesn't know how to read it. It was one of those unlucky breaks. It stinks the game had to end like that," midfielder Cory Elenio said.

Columbus had the better of play in the first half and the opening 15 minutes of the second but then went 28 minutes without a shot.

"In the second half we needed more possession," forward Jason Garey said. "They kept dumping long balls in and putting pressure on our defense. They didn't really create much. They just lobbed the ball into the box and it turned out to be effective for them."

The Crew failed to increase the 1-0 lead when Eddie Gaven drilled a straight-on strike from 28 yards off the left post in the 37th minute. The ball stayed in play and Schelotto's attempt was deflected back to Emmanuel Ekpo, who ran onto it and fired on goal, but goalkeeper Stefan Frei made a fingertip save to knock the shot out of bounds.

Early in the second half Garey was denied twice by Greg Sutton, who replaced Frei (lower back injury) after the break and the Crew's final chance came in the 88th minute when Ekpo misfired from the top of the box.

"We want to win all the games at home. That's basic," Crew coach Robert Warzycha said. "If you think about the first half, we hit the post. We had a couple of other chances. In the second half Jason Garey had probably two other chances. You have to take the positive from this game and learn a little bit from it."

The Crew were hampered by several absences. Rookie Alex Grendi started because left midfielder Robbie Rogers is out with a left hamstring strain.

With captain Frankie Hejduk away with the U.S. squad, third-year defender Jed Zayner took his spot. Meanwhile, Garey took over for Alejandro Moreno (Venezuela). Midfielder Duncan Oughton, one of the top reserves, was also away with New Zealand's national team.

To add to the Crew's woes, Schelotto was hobbled in the 49th minute when Adrian Serioux took him out with a tackle. Warzycha finally took the 2008 MLS MVP out of the game in the second half and replaced him with Steven Lenhart.

"He was limping after that tackle at the beginning of the second half. As the game went on he was limping more and more so we didn't want to take any chances," Warzycha said.

While saying Toronto tied the match on a "fluke goal," Warzycha acknowledged that his club was on the defensive for the latter part of the match.

"In the second half Toronto had the better of the game," he said. "There were a lot of fouls and a lot of throw-ins. That means they spent a lot of time in our half. We have to address that, maybe move the ball quicker."

Padula agreed. "In the first half we played much better," he said. "In the second half they pressed more because they were one down."

The Crew certainly don't look like the defending MLS champ in the standings or with the lineup. Grendi made his first career start. Elenio subbed for him and played 17 minutes, almost doubling the nine minutes he played last season and Zayner made just his third career start.

"It's challenging but the guys have waited awhile to get a chance," Garey said. "We're going to miss Frankie and Alejandro but we created as many as we did with them. We just need to execute."

The schedule doesn't get easier for the Crew with away matches Thursday at Real Salt Lake and April 5 vs. Chivas USA.

"It's a pretty tough road trip," Garey said "The best thing to do is get back out there and play. We're looking forward to playing at Salt Lake."

Craig Merz is a contributor to

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