Reshuffled lineup causing formation issues for Crew

Robert Warzycha congratulates Rich Balchan.

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OBETZ, Ohio — The Columbus Crew usually employ a standard 4-4-2 formation. But sometimes, as was the case the past two matches, that involves a little tweaking.

After a scoreless tie Saturday against San Jose, goalkeeper William Hesmer said the Crew are still seeking an identity and style of play because of the influx of new players, especially several rookies who have contributed heavy minutes lately.

Coach Robert Warzycha offered another explanation.

“We’ve had a lot injuries,” he said. “I can’t play the guys I really want. We’re plugging in this guy and that guy.”

The extended absences of forward Emilio Rentería and midfielder Dilly Duka have left the Crew with one of the weakest attacks in the league, but it’s been the recent loss of rookie defensive midfielder Rich Balchan (above, right) that has caused the most upheaval.

Warzycha started Eric Gehrig in his place and tried to protect the first-year player as much as possible.

“Gehrig is a new player,” Warzycha said. “We started with basically a 4-5-1 the last game because we wanted to help him. We didn’t want to put him in the big water and try to survive. If we had Balchan available, we probably would have played 4-4-2 because he has proven that he can cover that ground and has a good understanding in the middle.”

The good news for the Crew is that Balchan is expected to return to the lineup Wednesday at the LA Galaxy (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) after missing two games because of an adductor strain.

His return would allow Warzycha to once again use two forwards if he desires with rookie midfielder Bernardo Anor possibly going to the bench. Anor started beneath forward Andrés Mendoza the past two matches but was eventually moved to the flank.

Despite the continued shuffling, captain Chad Marshall remains confident the chemistry has not been altered.

“We have a good understanding of each other, what each guy does well and what he brings to the table,” Marshall said. “Everyone’s comfortable playing with anyone who’s on the field. We make do with who’s out there.”

The Crew (7-5-7) have been blanked seven times and are 14th in the league in goals (1.11 per game). They have scored only once their past three games, going 1-1-1 in that span.

“The biggest thing is we’ve created chances,” Warzycha said. “We just need to be sharper in front of the goal.”  

Opportunities will be at a premium against the Galaxy, who boast an MLS-best 39 points. They are 5-0-5 at home this season and have allowed just six goals at the Home Depot Center.

“We’re going to have to bunker down,” Marshall added. There are going to be times in the game when they’re dominating and we’re going to have to absorb that pressure and hopefully catch them on the counter or get a set-piece goal.”