Crew View: Heinemann key to snapping goal drought?

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A fingertip save by Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins on a header by Tommy Heinemann.

Another Heinemann flick that was inexplicably headed away from the goal by teammate Emilio Rentería and a Robbie Rogers’ shot that nicked the goalpost but didn’t go in.

“I don’t think we can come any closer,” Heinemann said.

Yet the Columbus Crew have no goals in their past two games, the most recent a 1-0 loss at Portland last Saturday.

If the Crew (3-3-4) are on the verge of breaking out of a season-long slump, then Heinemann may be a central figure.

The former minor-leaguer made his first MLS start vs. the Timbers when coach Robert Warzycha opted for a 4-4-2 instead of using five midfielders along with forward Rentería.

Tight dimensions at JELD-WEN Field were a factor in the switch. The Crew learned from a 3-0 defeat to San Jose the previous week at the equally claustrophobic Buck Shaw Stadium that a possession game is not effective in those circumstances.

The 6-foot-4 Heinemann’s aerial ability and work rate were well-suited for last Saturday’s formation.

“I thought it was good for winning balls in the air,” Rogers said. “It was a very direct game. On that end it was helpful. But I enjoy playing more of a 4-5-1. I like more passing and more movement off the ball. But I think this game called for a 4-4-2.”

Warzycha has to decide if he will stick with it when the Crew host Chivas USA on Saturday.

His decision could be influenced by the status of Rentería, who suffered a strained left quadriceps in the last match.

Andrés Mendoza took over for Rentería and it was his cross to Heinemann that forced Perkins into the lunging save to preserve a scoreless game just before halftime.

“Goals have been hard to come by for us, but I think we’re on the brink,” Heinemann said.

TRAVELING BLUES:

The Crew are 0-3-2 on the road with two goals scored and eight allowed.

Since a 1-0 win at D.C. United last Sept. 4, Columbus are 0-5-4 and have been outscored 17-7 in MLS away matches in the regular season. There was also a 1-0 loss to Colorado in the MLS Cup Playoffs to run the winless streak to 10 games.

Taking it further, since that September victory, there has been one Champions League win, two CCL losses and a defeat at Seattle in the US Open Cup final to bring the Crew’s road mark in all competitions to 1-9-4.