OBETZ, Ohio — Playing in foreign countries can be tough. The home team is always looking for the home-field advantage by inciting hostile crowds, giving the visitors poor accommodations and doing little things such as changing the time for pregame warm-ups.
That’s what the Columbus Crew can expect next week when they travel to Mexico to face Santos Laguna.
But it’s hard to imagine the Crew experiencing a more unfriendly environment in Mexico than the one they faced before and during last weekend’s 2-0 defeat away to Real Salt Lake.
It was sparked by RSL coach Jason Kreis letting what he thought were disparaging remarks about his team by Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer fester in his belly like a bad burrito for four months, and carried through the organization and the crowd in Rio Tinto Stadium.
Fans boasted on messages boards afterward of cursing out Hesmer—and his family members. The PA announcer and pregame video got the crowd juiced. The clips showed Hesmer saying in essence that although RSL won the MLS Cup last year the Crew didn’t like a sub-.500 team winning it and being called champions while the Crew were overlooked for their accomplishment of winning two straight Supporters’ Shield.
The video also presented quotes by Crew defender Gino Padula, who was supposedly railing against RSL. However, the reporter he spoke to, The Columbus Dispatch’s Shawn Mitchell, said Padula was talking about his own team, not Real Salt Lake, and the quotes were taken out of context.
Crew forward Jason Garey said the whole thing was overblown.
“It wasn’t anything inflammatory by Will,” he said. “We have a lot of respect for the way they play and the players on their team. They were the better team on Saturday. Honestly, I don’t think some of their players cared either way [about the video].”
However, consider this: Crew coach Robert Warzycha said Kreis refused to shake his hand before the game.
Also, early in the match Crew forward Steven Lenhart offered a hand after a scuffle but RSL defender Jamison Olave turned away. Lenhart said they shook afterward. Of course, it’s a lot easier to be sporting after thumping a team.
MORALES VS. SCHELOTTO: Here’s what RSL captain Kyle Beckerman said of midfielder Javier Morales after he scored both goals in the 2-0 win over the Crew: “For me, he's the best import we've had in this league. ... For me, there’s nobody better in our league.”
RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando praised Morales as “one of the best South American players MLS has ever had.”
Morales and Crew withdrawn forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto are both Argentines and very good players.
Since the start of 2008—the first full season for each—Morales has played more games (74-70) while Schelotto is ahead in goals (24-13) and assists (29-26).
Morales has two goals and three assists in seven playoff games and won an MLS Cup. He has been named an MLS All-Star twice.
Schelotto’s two postseason goals came against RSL in one match last year and he has six career playoff assists in five games. In the past three years he is a three-time All-Star, a Best XI once, won the league MVP in 2008 and the same year was the MLS Cup MVP when he had a record three assists in beating New York.
EMILIO’S NO SHOW: Crew fans have fallen in love with midfielder/forward Emilio Renteria for his bullish nature that has led to four goals. However, he was replaced in the 56th minute Saturday after taking no shots and committing three fouls.
“He was one of the players that wasn’t aggressive enough,” Warzycha said. “I had to change something.”
It was similar to the 3-1 loss at Chivas USA on July 31 when Renteria had zero attempts in 65 minutes.