It was a busy week for the Dayton Dutch Lions, starting on Wednesday night with a match against the Columbus Crew in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. It concluded on Sunday evening, when the Dutch Lions faced the Los Angeles Blues in an important USL PRO league contest. In one of the matches, the effort and performance exceeded the result. In the other game, the result was equal to the production on the field.
Dayton Dutch Lions at Columbus Crew
This wasn’t the first time that the Dutch Lions had traveled to Columbus to face the Crew in the U.S. Open Cup. Last year, the Dutch Lions scored two late goals to upset the MLS side and advance to the quarter-finals. As soon as the potential third-round pairings for this year’s tournament were announced, it became obvious that Columbus was going to take the USL PRO team more seriously this go-around. Crew staff began to appear at Dutch Lions’ home games, apparently to scout in person. When it was revealed that the starting XI would include veterans like Higuain and Gaven, everyone knew that the Crew had something to prove this year.
The first biggest moment of the game happened in the 14th minute. Eddie Gaven went streaking down the field only to be brought down just outside the top of the box by Brock Granger. The resulting red card would give the Crew a man advantage for the remainder of the match. At that moment, a second consecutive upset of the Crew in the USOC seemed very unlikely for Dayton.
In a similar situation against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in the Dutch Lions’ USL PRO season opener, Dayton was able to stay disciplined and perform well with only ten men on the pitch. It happened again in Columbus, and the two teams went into the locker rooms at half-time with the game knotted at zero.
The Crew were able to capitalize on one of the few Dutch Lions mistakes in the 52nd minute. Gaven and Frederico ran a nifty give-and-go on the right of the box. Dutch Lions defender Shane Smith appeared to lose track of his mark. When Gaven, received the ball back from Higuain, he was all alone in the box and ripped one inside the far post.
If Smith was to blame for the Gaven goal, he acquitted himself in the 78th minute. The Dutch Lions were pushing forward with possession as Smith made a long run down the left from his position in the back. Just as Smith arrived at the back post, Remco Klasse found him with a cross in front of the keeper. Smith buried the equalizer. It was starting to feel like 2012 all over again.
It wasn’t meant to be, though. Justin Meram scored the game winner from 23 yards out, assisted by Gaven, in the 84th minute. It was a well-placed ball that curled inside the right post. The Crew were able to flip the script on the Dutch Lions this year, but Dayton gave them all they could handle.
Los Angeles Blues at Dayton Dutch Lions
Given the level of play exhibited in the Wednesday night contest in Columbus, the Dutch Lions had high expectations for the league game against the Blues on Sunday. The Dutch Lions were riding a three-game unbeaten streak in USL PRO and should have been well-rested. The Blues, on the other hand, were playing the second leg of a road trip east of the Mississippi. There was no reason that the Dutch Lions shouldn’t have earned the three points against Los Angeles.
Well, the Dutch Lions found a reason. They came out flat and stayed that way throughout the contest. I honestly don’t know what else to say about the match. The focus and determination that were present against the Crew on Wednesday had vanished. The communication problem between the midfield and the front line once again reared its head. Dayton did reasonably well at gaining and maintaining possession, but they didn’t do a lot in the way of attacking. As a result, the Dutch Lions walked off the pitch after settling for the single point from a scoreless draw.
Bright Spot of the Week
For me, the play of Matt Williams in goal was the bright spot of the week. He had been playing well enough in the early portion of the schedule, but something about his game didn’t seem quite up to the level that he provided last season. Whatever it was that was missing, it seems to have returned. Several very good saves kept the Dutch Lions in the match in Crew Stadium. One very spectacular save among others, prevented Dayton from losing to Los Angeles. Let’s hope Williams is able to keep it going for the remainder of 2013.