Wednesday, July 6th, 2011 was an eventful day in Columbus Crew history. The day started off with Crew legend, and greatest player ever, Guillermo Barros Schelotto returning to Columbus at around 11:30 am. Fans met Schelotto and his family as they entered Port Columbus, shouting his name as they used to on every free kick in Crew Stadium.
Schelotto and former Crew player Gino Padula are running the Schelotto Padula Soccer Academy in Columbus.
Before the night’s game, the Crew announced that they have signed defender Julius James to a multi-year contract extension. James, 26 years old, had played most of the year in the center of defense alongside two time MLS Defender of the Year Chad Marshall.
Now on to the most important part of the day: the game. The Crew played the Whitecaps Wednesday night in their first ever visit to Vancouver. Jeff Cunningham scored the only goal of the game for Columbus to secure a 1-0 road victory in front of 19,079 fans. With the win, the Crew are now 7-5-6 (27 points) on the season, and the Whitecaps are 2-9-8 (14 points).
The first half ended 0-0, but Vancouver nearly went into the break with a lead. Whitecaps midfielder Shea Salinas received the ball on the right side of the box during first half stoppage time. He took one touch, and fired a shot that skimmed off the far post and out.
Vancouver had another great opportunity to take the lead in the 72nd minute. On a free kick, Crew midfielder Dejan Rusmir pulled down Alain Rochat in the box, and the referee awarded the penalty kick. Terry Dunfield stepped up to take it, but his shot to the bottom left corner was easily saved by Crew goalie Williams Hesmer.
In the 77th minute, the Crew gained a one man advantage. Shea Salinas took a long touch while he was trying to dribble the ball past Robbie Rogers around midfield. Crew left back Josh Gardner got to the ball first and cleared it away. Salinas went in win the ball late, hard, and high, hitting Gardner under his knee. Salinas was given a red card, and Vancouver now had to defend for over ten minutes down a man.
The game seemed to destined for a 0-0 tie. However, in the 90th minute, the Crew took the lead. Robbie Rogers had taken a shot that was saved out of bounds by Vancouver goalie Joe Cannon, earning a corner kick. The ensuing corner was cleared by the Whitecaps, but the ball fell right to Gardner on the left edge of the box. He sent the ball back in, where he found Jeff Cunningham unmarked in front of goal. Cunningham’s header found the back of the net, and found his name written in the record books.
Cunningham’s goal was his 63rd career goal for the Crew. The goal made him Columbus’ all-time goal scorer, moving him past fellow Crew legend Brian McBride (who is scheduled to be honored by the Crew during halftime of their next home game). Cunningham had played for Columbus from 1998-2004. During that time, he managed to score 62 goals, including the first ever goal in Crew Stadium history.
The goal was also Cunningham’s 133 MLS goal, moving him into a tie for first place with former D.C. United player Jaime Moreno. Cunningham now only needs one more goal to become MLS’s all-time leading scorer.
The shutout win was Crew goalie William Hesmer’s 40th of his career. He is now one of only ten goalies in MLS history to reach that milestone. Hesmer also recorded his 368th save for Columbus, passing Jon Busch for the Crew’s all-time leader.
Crew rookie Eric Gehrig made his first ever MLS start against the Whitecaps. He also started in the Crew’s U.S. Open Cup game against Richmond, and he came on as a substitute against the Colorado Rapids in the Crew’s 4-1 victory.
The Crew play next against the San Jose Earthquakes at home on July 16th. The Whitecaps play in Colorado tomorrow against the Rapids.
Columbus Crew – William Hesmer, Chad Marshall, Sebastian Miranda, Julius James, Josh Gardner, Robbie Rogers, Dejan Rusmir (Jeff Cunningham 83), Eddie Gaven, Eric Gehrig, Andres Mendoza (Tommy Heinemann 70), Bernardo Anor (Justin Meram 76).
Vancouver Whitecaps – Joe Cannon, Wes Knight, Michael Boxall, Jonathan Leathers, Alain Rochat, Shea Salinas, Gershon Koffie, Peter Vagenas (Terry Dunfield 64), Nizar Khalfan, Omar Salgado (Michael Nanchoff 73), Camilo.