Saturday, April 2, 2011

Gaven and Mendoza See Columbus Past Dallas

An early red card to midfielder Jackson set Dallas up for a tough second half, and goals from Mendoza and Eddie Gaven punished them.

From the off, Columbus looked the better side, dominating possession in what was a physical series of opening bouts. In the fourth minute, Columbus were presented with their first chance of the game, as a corner headed back across the box by Chad Marshall was shinned hopelessly wide by DP Mendoza.

As the game settled, Dallas began to enjoy a little more possession and Fabian Castillo showed his speed and strength to distance himself from the back tracking Robbie Rogers, and slice a shot into the side netting. Castillo looked lively all night, a danger on the dribble, and capable of producing a good cross.

However, the events of the next few minutes were set to consign Castillo and the rest of the FC Dallas attack to the roll of watcher on for the lion share of the last hour of the match. Having been booked just minutes earlier, Dallas midfielder Jackson dove in with a late sliding tackle on Emmanuel Ekpo, and promptly received his marching orders.

Down to ten men, and with Columbus bossing proceedings, Dallas star Davide Ferreira was being forced to drop deeper and deeper to retrieve possession of the ball, a fact that suited Columbus to a tee.

As the half time whistle blew, Columbus would have been slightly disappointed not to have converted their dominance into clear, goal scoring opportunities, but overall I think that Columbus coach Roger Warzycha was probably quite satisfied with his team's first half showing. Dallas on the other hand were a different story altogether. Totally lacking cohesion, even with eleven men on the pitch, the Texans struggled hugely with ten, a not very auspicious start to a game that was set to become even tougher for them.

With hardly seven minutes gone in the second period, Columbus had their breakthrough, as the pace of Ekpo caught out George John who slid in late to gift the Crew a penalty kick. Columbus's only previous goal of the season had come from the spot, a Robby Rogers conversion in DC, and stepping up to double the Crew's goal tally for the season was DP Andres Mendoza. Mendoza had looked lethargic all night, lacking the dynamism to get in behind Dallas's defense, and the enthusiasm to show for the ball. However, the Peruvian's penalty was spot on, and Columbus had the lead.

With thirty minutes left on the clock and the lead intact, Columbus substituted the disappointing Mendoza for former FC Dallas man Jeff Cunningham. Within second Cunningham was presented with an opportunity to open his account for the season, but the striker first touch failed him as he tried to latch on to a Rentaria flick, and his shot was sliced harmlessly wide of the near post.

Columbus fans may have perhaps feared that that miss could come back to haunt their side, but half an hour later the Crew still had the lead, and they were maintaining it very comfortably indeed. The only thing missing from the Crew performance was a first goal from open play of the season, and with just minutes left the brilliant Eddie Gaven provided it.

Having been superb all night, Eddie Gaven received the ball on the edge of the box and cut it onto his left foot, before unleashing a low, curling effort which Hartmann had no chance of keeping out. Columbus had won their first match of the 2011 MLS season, while Dallas had slumped to yet another disappointing loss.

On paper, this result looks like a huge disappointment for FC Dallas, but they should be able to take plenty of positives out of this match. Eighteen year old Fabian Castillo was a live wire all night, and if he continues to be given first team opportunities he will deliver the goods. Also, on his return from suspension, Brek Shea looked solid in the heart of the defense, with his passing from deep impeccable as always.

For Columbus, the obvious positive of this match is a first three points of the season, but the team will also be cheered by the performances of midfield duo Eddie Gaven and Kevin Burns. Gaven controlled the midfield all night and his goal was just deserts for a stunning display. Meanwhile, rookie Burns had been grafting hard in the center of midfield, and his strong defensive attributes helped to keep Dallas' midfield magician, Ferreira, out of the game. Certainly, if the Columbus midfield can continue to play as well as they did last night, then this season could be more than one of just transition.

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