T-180 minutes to kickoff: Before the Home Depot Center was born out of nothingness next to California State University, Dominguez Hills, there was Columbus Crew Stadium.
Erected on May 15, 1999, Crew Stadium boasts a seating capacity of 20,455, with extended seating to accommodate up to 30,000 spectators. Crew Stadium, located on 1 Black And Gold Boulevard, was not the very first soccer-specific facility (that honor belongs to the Charleston Battery's Blackbaud Stadium opened a month earlier), but it was the one that opened up the floodgates. It set a precedent whose seismic aftershocks are felt to this day.
God bless that Lamar Hunt. A wealthy oil billionaire who willed a dynasty of success to his family and the Hunt Sports Group, he decided that 1998 was the year the Crew would move out of Ohio Stadium into their own footballing paradise.
Now don't get me wrong; Ohio Stadium is a great sporting place in its own right. But it's the wrong code, and it was never popular with team or its fans.
T-170: So Crew Stadium was created. Blessed with a FIFA-regulation 115 x 75 yard pitch, it is built on the Ohio Expo Center and State Fairgrounds and took 274 days to complete. The USA men's national team is unbeaten at Crew Stadium, and it has hosted a couple of MLS All-Star test matches, the 2001 MLS Cup and a number of local high school football games, among other sporting events.
But this stadium, first and foremost, where Robert Warzycha's men-complete with cheer squad and the Nordecke (more on them in a bit)-call home. Today, the Los Angeles Galaxy soldier on, without the services of Landon Donovan and fellow confirmed USA men's national team selection Edson Buddle, to the Massive Zone and one of the most formidable environments in the league.
T-160: I do want to express, once again, my condolences to fans in St. Louis who supported St. Louis Athletica. As a former fan of the Sol, I feel their pain.
T-150: Back to the contest at hand. I wanted to go ahead and talk a little bit about the Nordecke and how this all came about.
Before the north end of Crew Stadium was demolished to make way for a concert area, there were three groups of supporters that dominated the end and showed their support: La Turbina Amarilla (The Yellow Turbine in Spanish), The Crew Supporters Union and The Hudson Street Hooligans.
The differences between the groups in terms of age and ethnicity had to be abandoned, and from this came the Nordecke, which means "North Corner" in German. True to their name, the Nordecke sits in the north corner of Crew Stadium.
T-140: The Crew bring in an impressive pedigree: with three Supporters' Shields, a US Open Cup in 2002, an Anschutz in '08 as part of their double, and two quarterfinal appearances in the CONCACAF Champions Cup and Champions League.
T-130: What's going to make thinks pretty testy is that Chad Marshall and Robbie Rogers did not make the 23-man roster. Makes you wonder if they were taking their opportunity seriously or wanted the first plane out of Hartford back to Columbus.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY
Manager: Bruce Arena
Formation: 4-4-2 Diamond
Colors: Blue tops, blue shorts, blue socks
1 Donovan Ricketts
20 A.J. de La Garza ---- 4 Omar Gonzalez ---- 16 Greg Berhalter (C) ---- 2 Todd Dunivant
9 Jovan Kirovski
28 Sean Franklin --- 26 Michael Stephens
11 Chris Birchall
17 Tristan Bowen --- 18 Mike Magee
12 Josh Saunders GK
22 Leonardo DEF
88 Alex Cazumba DEF
6 Eddie Lewis MID
7 Chjris Klein MID
84 Clint Mathis MID
27 Bryan Jordan FWD
Manager: Robert Warzycha
Golors: Gold tops with black trim, gold shorts, gold socks
1 Will Hesmer
4 Gino Padula ---- 6 Andy Iro ---- 14 Chad Marshall ---- 5 Danny O'Rourke
18 Robbie Rogers ---- 12 Eddie Gaven ---- 22 Adam Moffat ---- 16 Brian Carroll
7 Guillermo Barros Schelotto (C) ---- 32 Steven Lenhart
30 Andy Gruenebaum GK
8 Duncan Oughton DEF
23 Eric Brunner DEF
17 Emmanuel Ekpo MID
9 Jason Garey FWD
19 Sergio Herrera FWD
20 Emilio Renteria FWD
T-110: Columbus edged the Galaxy last season in the race for the Supporters' Shield...by a single point. The Crew earned it with 49 points. The Galaxy, meanwhile, got a measly 48. The deciding match took place in ROund 27 of last season, a 2-0 defeat at Crew Stadium.
A successful revenge bid will do wonders for their push to claim just their third MLS Supporters' Shield.
T-100: The Galaxy's next three matches include a June 5 home match with the Houston Dynamo, and two road contests: a June 9 meeting at Sandy's very own Rio Tinto Stadium with Real Salt Lake followed by a June 26 trip north of the border to Rio Tinto Stadium to face off against Toronto FC.
T-90: Columbus's next three matches include a June 2 trip to Santa Clara's Buck Shaw Stadium to face the San Jose Earthquakes, a June 5
road test at Dick's Sporting Goods Stadium against the Colorado Rapids and a June 26 home affair with D.C. United. And what a walkover the latter of those matches will be.
T-80: Other games going on today include D.C. United vs. Chivas USA, New England Revolution vs. New York Red Bulls, Houston Dynamo vs. Philadelphia Union, Colorado Rapids vs. Seattle Sounders FC, Real Salt Lake vs. Kansas City Wizards, and San Jose Earthquaked vs. Toronto FC.
TFC, by the way, defended its Voyageurs Cup, as the Montreal Impact's Phillipe Billy broke Vancouver Whitecaps hearts in a 1-1 draw on Wednesday. They will wrap up the campaign with a June 2 match with the Caps, and expect them to field a patchwork side for this one. The Reds will take on C.D. Montagua in the Preliminary Round.
T-70: In earlier action this week, the Chicago Fire and FC Dallas played to a 1-1 draw.
T-60: An hour to go.
FIRST HALF START: 4:36 P.M.
1' - And we're off. Early header chance goes wide, but is offsides.
3' - Corner for the Crew. Let's see what the home side does here. Header goes over.
4' - Great attacking from Columbus. Another corner.
One-time shot goes wide. Goal kick.
5' - Donovan Ricketts scoops that up.
7' - Ricketts again clears the chance, this time for Steven Lenhart.
10' - GOAL! 26 Michael Stephens Assist 11 Chris Birchall
And all the wind seems to be sucked out of Crew Stadium. What a strike from Stephens to open up his scoring account and his career.
12' - The Crew need to figure something out. Draw men forward. Put more pressure on the defense. Make Ricketts work. Otherwise, this will be a chance for the Galaxy to consolidate.
13' - This could be a big night for Los Angeles, as the Lakers are looking to wrap the Western Conference Finals up.
15' - Ricketts now does some work, tipping the ball over for a corner.
16' - Goal kick for Ricketts, and the folks in the Nordeceke are not liking this one.
17' - A little smoke, a little tiro, and a little taunting from the Massive's supporters. Crew back on the attack. Galaxy counter. Here's Sean Franklin. Pass inside gets squandered, forcing the Galaxy to reset against the run of play.
18' - This is the first time they are breaking out the big blue kits, too.
19' - Oh dear. What is with the atricious trumpeting down there? My goodness!
20' - Ayayay. Stephens nearly got his brace early. Great save from Will Hesmer.
21' - Now that was an interesting pass. Here come the Crew. A shot from Eddie Gaven goes wide left.
24' - Here's Guillermo Barros Schelotto with the set piece, and Michael Kennedy, our match referee, is going to sort things out here.
Yellow card 4 Omar Gonzalez
Los Angeles Galaxy
Well that was a stupid push. Too easy. Kennedy had no choice as well.
26' - The G's will have to do some short passing here to dictate the proceedings. And that is what they are doing. One time shot from Tristan Bowen goes wide.
27' - Crew on the counter. Chance for Schelotte deflected. Here come the men in yellow. Excellent defending.
28' - Yellow card 20 A.J. De La Garza
Los Angeles Galaxy
29' - While the call was fair, I hope Kennedy is not being a homer here...he is running the risk of being labeled so.
30' - Set piece time for Schelotto. Ricketts is there to save it. The big cat from Montego Bay, doing the work once again.
31' - Goal kick for Hesmer.
32' - Gonzalez and De La Garza need to be careful here for the rest of the match.
33' - And Ricketts is disgusted for the lack of the communication with Gregg Berhalter. Couple of corners on the way. Broken record. Both of them wide left. Bailed out of that one.
34' - Here come the Crew again. Another corner. That is also denied. Good tackle on Tristan Bowen. And a yellow for Jed Zayner.
Yellow card 24 Jed Zayner
35' - I'm telling you, this Michael Kennedy ain't messin' around here. Wide set piece sails right of the mark. Bowen is up.
36' - Columbus on the attack again. Good defending by A.J. De La Garza.
37' - Bad touch for Robbie Rogers. Bruce Arena is not pleased by his men giving up the possession.
39' - Shot by Steven Lenhart goes high. Best chance for the Crew so far.
40' - Another header by Lenhart goes hight and over the bar.
41' - Magee needed a second touch on that one. Berhalter in shaken up. He did hold up Lenhart, though. He'll need to be treated and get those knees bach ip in shape.
42' - Ricketts had to make that save. Columbus isn't doing anything special; they are just peppering the net.
43' - A long pass was deflected by the LA. Robbie Rogers was there. Corner for the Crew.
44' - Unbelievable. Nice way to break up your own opportunity on the transition, gentlemen!
45' - Let's see how many minutes of stoppage time we got. It's two minutes. And another pass goes behind. Keep it simple, guys.
45' + 1' - Goal kick for Ricketts.
45' + 2' - Halftime.
Los Angeles Galaxy 1
Michael Stephens 10'
Columbus Crew 0
Well, I noted Stephens in my "This Is The Los Angeles Galaxy" series, and he has delivered. In other scores today...D.C. United and Chivas USA are tied 1-1, and the New England Revolution lead the New York Red Bulls 2-1.
SECOND HALF START: 5:39 P.M.
46' - The second half begins. Can't believe the parachuter for Columbus fell down while landing. Was that a sign of things to come. Do the Crew do statistics on that? Is this all a conspiracy?
47' - Ricketts will have to ask his team to set the tempo early this half. This is Todd Dunivant with the throw-in. Times two. The Columbus back line is their to summon another one for Dunivant.
48' - Schelotto is down. Knee injury it seems. He is fine, though. This would be a huge blow to the Crew's chances if he is injured and has to be subbed early.
49' - A little game of keep away, can the Crew break it? Leave it to Michael Kennedy to break that up. Magee couldn't believe that.
50' - Here is a set piece for the Crew. Goes wide, and it's a goal kick for Mr. Ricketts.
51' - I'm looking forward to the new Super Mario Galaxy 2 game for the Wii, to be honest. I predict it will be a Game of the Year.
52' - Now Andy Iro is shaken up, before getting back on his feet. Seam Franklin and his mohawk...I'm lovin; it.
So we are just over 50 minutes into the match, and the Nordecke are hoping for an equalizer. A Michael Bradley goal has made this 1-0 to the Galaxy.
53' - As Ricketts grabs that for a goal kick, they are making a habit with all these one-goal leads. They did it against FC Dallas, they did against Boca Juniors, and now they are doing it against the Crew.
54' - I think Birchall will need to get that little micro-fracture on his kneecap fixed when the season ends. Should happen.
55' - This is Andy Iro. A former UCSB product under Tim Von Steeg, he looks to get the Crew back into the sort of things.
56' - Berhalter looks for the foul. None given, and here's Columbus on the attack again.
57' - Stephens clears for a corner. Here comes Schelotto, the #7 for the Crew. Corner denied. Back come the G's.
58' - Nobody in the vicinity on that cross.
59' - High one-time from Schelotto. Goal kick. Looks like the G's are getting away with that one-goal lead so far, but there is still a ways yet to go. And here's one of the favorites among the subs, Emilio Reteria, to come in for the Crew
Substitution Columbus Crew
IN 20 Emilio Renteria
OUT 4 Gino Padula
61' - Bad header inside Columbus's third. Here come the Crew.
62' - Corner for Columbus.
63' - Wide shot for the Crew. Goal kick for Ricketts.
64' - Foul on Magee for tripping Schelotto
Substitution Los Angeles Galaxy
IN 84 Clint Mathis
OUT 18 Mike Magee
65' - That's the first time in a while Hesmer had to grab something. Back come the Crew. A little war of words ensues between Lenhart and Berhalter. Fun stuff on the pitch inside the Massive Zone.
66' - This is a good chance for Robbie Rogers. It's wide right. Schelotto misses his mark. Dangerous right there.
68' - Ricketts went off his line on that one. But it seems to have backfired cause Columbus are on the attack again.
IN 17 Emmanuel Ekpo
OUT 22 Adam Moffat
And Moffat screams in disgust at having to be subbed early. Hey, respect the decision of the manager, my friend. You'll thank him later if they equalize.
71' - Goal kick for Ricketts after Renteria is called offsides on the corner.
73' - Substitution Columbus Crew
IN 9 Jason Garey
OUT 32 Steven Lenhart
Set piece squandered. And here is another for the Crew. Their patience has to be rewarded sooner or later.
74' - Great punchout by Ricketts. a shot goes off the post for Iro almost equalize. Another corner and that is stopped.
That's the best chance for the Crew so far. Here they come again.
75' - Goal goes offsides. Oh dear. That should have been 1-1.
76' - The crowd yells "Bollocks! Bollocks!" And you know what? I can't blam 'em.
77' - Another card....
Yellow card 11 Chris Birchall
Los Angeles Galaxy
78' - The local press in Columbus will be launching the headlines "We Was Robbed!" if this result hold up. Great save Ricketts. And yet another corner. This defense is being tested.
79' - Bowen is tackled. And the collective howls rain on Crew Stadium.
80' - Tristan Bowen almost forced the corner. It's a goal kick for Hesmer.
81' - So we have less than nine minutes to go and stoppage as well, and it's still 1-0 Galaxy.
82' - Another corner for the Crew. Well that was wasted. The banners wave high in the Nordecke.
Substitution Los Angeles Galaxy
IN 27 Bryan Jordan
OUT 11 Chris Birchall
Substitution Los Angeles Galaxy
IN 7 chris Klein
OUT 28 Sean Franklin
83' - Arena asks his players to be safe with the ball.
84' - Berhalter wonders why the lineman did not raise the flag. He won the argument there.
85' - You know, seriously, this should be 1-1 already. It makes you wonder.
86' - Some players were not paying attention there. Emmanuel Ekpo is making his mark as a sub. But that is an offsides on the Crew.
87' - The Galaxy need to close the deal here. They have given Columbus way too many chances here. And they do!
88' - GOAL! Los Angeles Galaxy 17 Tristan Bowen Assist 7 Chris Klein
His first MLS goal, and a great delivery from Klein. And now, the sense of urgency is there. This is another player I highlighted earlier this week, and now he is earning his stripes.
89' - Let's see what they do here. Great save by Donovan Ricketts off his line.
90' - Some of the fans are heading for the exits. A sportmanlike act by Todd Dunivant after tripping Schelotto. Set piece for the Crew.
Yellow card 2 Todd Dunivant
Los Angeles Galaxy
Homeresque sympathy from Michael Kennedy. And that set piece went south.
90' + 1' - Four minutes of stoppage time. Hilario Grajeda may have made a four-minute enemy in Bruce Arena. I'm serious, fellows.
90' + 2' - All right, it should have been 2-1 to the G's, with Bowen getting the game winner. (2-2 if you count the ding-dong off the post).
90' + 3' - But if you're going to finish, you gotta finish right. great defense by Gregg Berhalter. Shot goes over for Andy Iro.
90' + 4' - That is a wrap!
LOS ANGELES GALAXY 2
Michael Stephens 10'
Tristan Bowen 88'
COLUMBUS CREW 0
Win number 100 for Bruce Arena. Stay tuned for my take on this match on Bleacher Report and...The View.