John is worth whatever Nottingham Forest wants to pay; Colorado's inability to score leaves it hopeless outclassed by Los Angeles in West.(Sunday, October 17, 1999) -- If Stern John is, in fact, headed for England at the end of the Major League Soccer season, today he proved he can play in British weather.
On a rainy and cold afternoon, John scored two late goals to propel the Columbus to a 2-0 victory on an afternoon when the Crew seemed entirely vulnerable.
Tampa Bay had a real chance to steal a win today, but came up short. The first half belonged to the two goalkeepers, the Crew's Mark Dougherty and the Mutiny's Scott Garlick. Both made fine saves in a very even and entertaining half.
Despite the slippery field, and blustery conditions, the first half was end to end action and fine play by both teams. Steve Ralston was outstanding for the visitors and Tampa Bay's Carlos Valderrama played with an intensity that belied his 38 years. But Dougherty was up to the test, and made the saves he had to.
Columbus made threatening runs often, but as is often the case, could not make the final pass to spring John or Brian McBride.
Columbus seemed to come out flat in the second half flat, and Tampa Bay carried the game to them. The visitors repeatedly made threatening runs, but could not connect with that final pass. At the other end, Columbus did not get the kind of midfield play it needs and really didn't threaten.
Just when it looked like a nil-nil draw and shootout was approaching, John struck. In the 78th minute, Brian West centered the ball for Brian McBride in the box. But he was knocked down and the ball went through to John. With the instincts that will make him worth $2 million to Nottingham Forest, John blasted the ball by Garlick without a moment's hesitation.
Then six minutes later, a careless foul gave Columbus midfielder Robert Warzycha a free kick from the side of the penalty area. Inexplicitly, the Mutiny put up only a two-man wall which Warzycha easily bent the ball around for John to tip past Garlick despite having Tampa defender Joe Addo draped all over him.
This was one of those games it appeared Columbus thought it could win just by showing up. It ended up in a struggle, which, with a little luck, could have gone Tampa Bay's way. This well may have been the Mutiny's big shot, and it is not difficult to believe Columbus will close this series out next weekend in Tampa. But the Crew will have to play a lot better if it is going to make it to Foxboro Stadium for MLS Cup '99 on November 21.
For Colorado, the scoring drought continues: 589 minutes and counting.
That is how long it has been since the Rapids have scored a goal in MLS competition. Considering some of their misses tonight it well could be next season before the Rapids score again.
Time and again, Colorado shooters had seemingly open nets. But either Galaxy keeper Kevin Hartman came up big, or else the Colorado shooter missed the sitter.
Both Jorge Dely Valdes and Paul Bravo had one-on-one breakaways against Hartman in the first half. The Galaxy keeper stopped both, although neither shot was well taken.
Then in the second half, Bravo again missed a sitter, and Hartman came up big at least twice more.
If there is any doubt as to whether Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid should be MLS "Coach of the Year," that doubt was erased tonight. In the 18th minute, the Galaxy's Simon Elliott was ejected for a second yellow card on a tackle from behind. But the Galaxy was so organized it played the rest of the match as if a man up. The Galaxy attacked relentlessly and the Rapids were constantly back on their heels trying to defend.
The turning point in the match came early in the second half with the Galaxy up 1-0. Mauricio Cienfuegos turned on Rapids defender Tim Martin in the box. Martin's response was to reach out and pull Cienfuegos down by the back of his shirt. Greg Vanney easily put the penalty kick past keeper Ian Feuer and the Galaxy never looked back.
The Galaxy played tonight with that kind of flowing grace that marked its early run last season. And L.A. played without the injured Carlos Hermosillo who may be available next week in Denver. From the look of the two teams tonight, Colorado is simply outclassed and it will be surprisingly if the Rapids bring this series back to Pasadena, Calif., for a third match.