HARRISON, N.J. — With first place in the Eastern Conference on the line, the biggest decision of the match was made before the Crew played New York on Thursday in Red Bull Arena.
With leading scorer Guillermo Barros Schelotto suspended for the match, Crew coach Robert Warzycha opted to start Jason Garey in Schelotto's spot opposite forward Steven Lenhart.
Watch: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
But at about the quarter mark, right midfielder Eddie Gaven and Garey switched spots.
The result was that Gaven was in the goal box to head a service by Frankie Hejduk for a 1-0 lead in the 35th minute, and four minutes later he did his best Schelotto imitation with a perfect corner kick that Andy Iro headed in for a two-goal lead going into the break.
Those scores were enough, but after Tony Tchani made it 2-1 in the 81st minute, Emilio Renteria came off the bench for an insurance marker in the 3-1 victory.
“It was decided before the game,” Warzycha said of the move. “We came with two straight forwards (Lenhart and Garey), but we knew after 15 minutes we were going to put Eddie over there because that is how we wanted to play and surprise them a little bit, which worked.”
The Crew (5-0-2) won in their first trip to Red Bull Arena and ended a 0-8-3 streak at New York since 2003.
“It was good to finally beat them,” Gaven said of his former club.
Earlier in the week, he joked that in Thursday’s game and another on Sunday at Kansas City that he might have to play right, center and left midfield. He never mentioned forward.
“I don’t really mind,” he said. “It’s going anywhere I need to go to help the team.”
Garey was happy as well. Normally one of the first off the bench, he went 89 minutes and was exhausted.
“I did more defensive work than I’ve done in a long time,” he said.
Garey credited right back Frankie Hejduk for providing support.
“I had a guy playing two or three World Cups behind me,” Garey said. “It made it a lot easier. I listened to Frankie. When he said ‘Push up’ I pushed up. If he said ‘Tuck in’ I tucked in.”
Hesmer was headed for his team record 25th shutout before he misjudged a flighted ball, and Tchani headed it over him.
“I called for it,’ Hesmer said. “I thought the ball was going to carry more. I thought I was going to be able to get to it but I couldn’t. I’m disappointed. It put a little extra pressure on us.”
Renteria, who was signed in August, took the pressure off by taking advantage of a turnover and slotting the ball past Bouna Coundoul just two minutes later.
It was his first MLS goal.
“We had two important goals, then I was really happy I had the third goal, especially because I haven’t had a lot of chances,” Renteria said.
Warzycha said he was not surprised that the Crew put three on the board even without Schelotto, who leads the club with four goals, and defender Chad Marshall and left midfielder Robbie Rogers, who are at the U.S. World Cup training camp.
“We have a deep team. We showed that last year,” Warzycha said. “I told everybody before the game I had a lot of confidence going into the game.” A little good fortune helped. The Red Bulls hit the left post twice and the crossbar once.
“You create your own luck. You make it tough for them,” Hesmer said. “I know [New York] feel a little unlucky, but I believe you create those breaks for yourself.”