Columbus Crew head coach Tom Fitzgerald was not about to take that chance on Wednesday when the A-League Hampton Roads Mariners came to Crew Stadium to take part in a third round battle, the winner of which would advance to the Cup Quarterfinals.
Fitzgerald has spoken openly about his desire to capture the Cup, named after Crew owner Lamar Hunt. His lineup sheet backed up the talk tonight. Instead of starting a team filled with reserve players, Fitzgerald -- for the most part -- started his normal lineup, with a few exceptions.
The most notable exception was Miles Joseph, who was a late addition to the squad tonight, filling in for Dante Washington. Joseph lit a fire under the Crew offense, scoring one goal and assisting on the next two to lead Columbus to a 4-1 thumping of an overmatched Hampton Roads side.
The win send the Crew through to the Semifinals, where they will face the winner of the Tampa Bay Mutiny - NY / NJ MetroStars match, which will be played next Tuesday.
The Mariners came out swinging at the opening whistle, and dominated play for the first 20 minutes of the match. Ten minutes in, Irish striker Seamus Donnelly got the first chance of the game, volleying a Saul Martinez free kick just wide of Matt Napoleon's net. Less than a minute later, Donnelly fed Mariners midfielder Jakob Fenger on the run, and Fenger's offering to the near post was pushed wide by Napoleon.
"Fortunately for us, Hampton Roads had a few chances in the beginning that they missed ... otherwise, it could have been a different outcome," Fitzgerald said.
Hampton Roads kept the pressure up, taking Columbus out of their rhythm, and again nearly going up a goal in the 24th minute, but Todd Yeagley's sliding tackle in the penalty box took Martinez down, and Napoleon was able to cover the loose ball.
After that threat, Columbus' slumbering offense awoke.
Robert Warzycha lined up a corner kick in the 25th minute, and just like he did twice against Kansas City on Saturday, delivered a pinpoint ball to the head of Joseph, who flicked the ball on with his head. The looping ball rose and dipped back into the far netting as Mariners' goalkeeper Emmitt Idzahl made a leaping attempt to stop it. He had no chance.
"I was just trying to put in on goal," Joseph said. "If it had gone across the goal, somebody should have been there to knock it in. I was lucky that it went where it did."
Lucky or not, the strike seemed to take the wind out of the Mariners' sails.
"We kind of came out flat-footed tonight," said Farrell. "To their credit, they came out fired up. They're a good team, but we were fortunate enough to score the first goal. After that, they kind of dropped back a bit."
Joseph continued to give the Hampton Roads defense problems for the rest of the night, likely because the Mariners' were more prepared to face Washington -- a completely different style of striker.
"As a player, you've got to be ready in case something like that happens," Joseph said. "I was fortunate to be in the right spot on that goal, and things really went our way tonight."
The former MetroStar set up the game-winning goal five minutes later, taking a pass from Jeff Cunningham, and hitting Farrell on a run up the center. Farrell took a few touches, then ripped a shot into the left corner of the net.
Hampton Roads finally tallied in the 39th minute, with Fenger running onto a ball from Martinez and hammering a shot past Napoleon at the near post.
But any thoughts of making a comeback were smashed in the 60th minute when Joseph, sprinting down the right touchline, saw winger Mike Duhaney unmarked in the penalty area. Joseph squared the ball over Mariners' defender Randy Samuel perfectly, allowing Duhaney to finish with ease.
Despite his impressive performance, Joseph was quick to deflect the media attention off of himself after the game.
"We have 22 guys on this team that are capable of going out there and playing well," said Joseph. "When you get your opportunity, you've got to go out there and play hard."
Which is exactly what the Crew is doing, both in league play and in the Open Cup. Farrell, who also assisted on the final goal -- a 93rd minute shot by Dominic Schell -- attributes the recent solid play to the week of July 4th, a week which saw Columbus embarrassed in two straight matches.
"We've had this in us all along," Farrell said. "Maybe it was the fact that we were getting our butts kicked there for a while, but something lit a fire under us. It's only three games, though, and we've got plenty of games left. We can't sit back and just pat ourselves on the back."
Washington sat the game out with a hip flexor, an injury which gave him problems turning on the ball in pre-game warm-ups. Rather than risk injury, Fitzgerald called on Joseph.
2000 LAMAR HUNT U.S. OPEN CUP MATCH REPORT
|Participants:||Columbus Crew (MLS) vs. Hampton Roads Mariners (A-League)|
|Competition:||2000 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Third Round|
|Venue:||Columbus Crew Stadium (Columbus, Ohio)|
|Date:||July 19, 2000|
Columbus - Joseph, (Warzycha), 25,
Columbus - Farrell, (Joseph), 30,
Hampton Roads - Fenger, (Martinez), 39,
Columbus - Duhaney, (Joseph), 60,
Columbus - Schell, (Farrell), 93+.
MARINERS - GK-Emmett Idzahl, D-Alan Branigan, D-Randy Samuel, D-Steve Kraemer, D-Ian Checcio, M-Jeff Dominguez, M-Chris Scrofani (Jaymi Bailey 51), M-Jakob Fenger, M-Nathan Fairchild (Jimmy Tanner 58), F-Saul Martinez (Dwayne Bergeron 73), F-Seamus Donnelly.
CREW - GK-Matt Napoleon, D-Mike Clark, D-Todd Yeagley, D-Mike Lapper, M-Robert Warzycha, M-Jason Farrell, M-Roland Aguilera, M-Mike Duhaney (Dominic Schell, 83), M-John Wilmar Perez (Mario Longo 79), F-Jeff Cunningham (Mario Gori 71), F-Miles Joseph.