Michael Arace commentary: Is another Massive season brewing?

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
High Contrast Normal Version

Every Major League Soccer team talks about “peaking at the right time.” It is a tired phrase, but there is some truth to it. Teams want to be coming, hard, when September rolls around and the first evening chill is in the air — as it was last night, when 13,874 were on hand to watch the Crew take on Chivas USA at Crew Stadium.

The thing about “peaking at the right time” is it is not as easy as, say, lighting the fire pit. You just don’t know from where the spark will come, or if it will come. You don’t know if the paper is going to catch, or whether the kindling is dry enough, or what the wind is going to do. There are so many variables.

The Crew knows both sides of this. It gathered power and emerged as a ball of fire in its run to the MLS Cup in 2008. The team withered, denuded and dead by the time the playoffs rolled around in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

There is something magical, and elusive, about “peaking at the right time.”

It is difficult to say which way the Crew will go this year, but at the moment, there are more good signs than bad omens. There is even a touch of Massive.

Last night, the Crew emerged with a 1-0 victory over Chivas. The boys in banana yellow won on a goal by forward Justin Meram in the 89th minute. The late, late goal surprised no one — at least, no one in the Crew’s locker room.

In its past four victories, the Crew has four times scored the winning goal in the 86th minute or later. That speaks of some indefinable thing, something remotely gritty and partially magical, that they have going for them.

Meram entered the game in the 80th minute in place of Eddie Gaven, who went off because of an injury in the shin/ankle area. When Meram checked in, the referee told him to take off the black, rubber bracelet with “Kirk Urso #15” emblazoned in gold.

All the Crew players wear these bracelets, just as everyone in the Nordecke does, in honor of their teammate who collapsed and died in a Columbus bar on Aug. 5.

“The ref made me take my band off, so I put it in my sock — and two minutes later I scored — for my man, Kirk,” Meram said.

The scoring play started with Tony Tchani, who had come in for Milo Mirosevic in the 67th minute. Tchani sent a seeing-eye through ball down the left side of the penalty box to Federico Higuain, the designated player who came aboard last month, and who needed an injection in his right foot last week.

Higuain put a perfect cross to the top of the goalkeeper’s box — where his favorite target, Jairo Arrieta, slid into a volley like Jackie Robinson. Arrieta joined the team in July.

The goalkeeper made a point-blank save, the ball popped into the air and Arrieta, from his back, lunged to head the ball backward and keep the play going.

Meram was there to hammer the ball home. The fans in the stands, waiting nearly a full 90 minutes for a goal, understanding the importance of this game, . They watched Meram sprint away and rip off his shirt in celebration, which is an instant yellow card.

“I had this feeling,” Meram said. “Like, I felt like I was going to take my shirt off. It felt like the right time to do it.”

Meram was almost mystical in his explanation. He saw this coming. He knew he was going to rip his shirt off, and to heck with the booking.

“The thing about it is just being on the field with this team, the guys you’re with every day,” Meram said. “We’re a close team. This is what we’re here for. Sometimes, that pressure just makes us play better.”

With the victory, the Crew ended a two-game losing streak, pushed its record to 5-3-2 in its past 10 games. The three points the team earned pushed it into the fifth and last playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

On a night when a crescent moon gashed a clear sky and the supporters wrapped their scarves tightly, it felt like their team might be on to something.

Michael Arace is a sports reporter for The Dispatch.

marace@dispatch.com

@MichaelArace1

Comments

Please Share Your Zip Code

To listen to 97.1 The Fan or ESPN 1460AM we ask that you provide a zip code so that we may give you the best audio connection possible.

Please enter your zip code:

No thanks