Crew visit RSL seeking return to health, not revenge
OBETZ, Ohio — When the dust settled on the offseason makeover, Columbus Crew coach Robert Warzycha figured he had the scoring threats he desired with the pairing of forwards Andrés Mendoza and Emilio Rentería.
While it’s true they’ve combined for half of the team’s 22 goals (Mendoza leads with seven) the figure is nothing to get excited about considering the Crew have played 21 games.
A major reason for the lack of production has been the inability for Mendoza and Rentería to be healthy at the same time. They have played only 49 minutes together and not once have they started in the same match.
“It’s just frustrating,” Warzycha said. “That would be a good combination. They’re both able to score goals. What can we do? Maybe in the playoffs.”
His last comment was half-joking, half-exasperation because he will not have a full strike force again on Saturday when the undermanned Crew visit Real Salt Lake (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
Rentería, who scored the last of his four goals in the seventh game on April 30, returned last Saturday after missing 10 games with a quadriceps strain to go 24 minutes against Portland. He went another 45 in Tuesday’s friendly vs. Newcastle United but had soreness afterward and did not travel to Utah.
Mendoza missed the past two matches after straining his left hamstring at LA on July 20 but was cleared for the RSL match, as was forward Jeff Cunningham (right knee), who sat out the Newcastle game.
Since Mendoza’s last two goals against Colorado on June 26, the Crew (8-6-7, 31 points) have scored only two goals in five games but still managed a pair of wins and a tie to stay in the thick of the Eastern Conference race.
When he or Rentería are out, Cunningham, Tommy Heinemann or rookie Justin Meram have filled in.
“We have a way we want to play and everybody does their job,” midfielder Eddie Gaven said. “But it’s obviously been tough because you want guys who are on the same page and maybe at times were not because we have different guys in the lineup every week.”
Columbus will also be without starting goalkeeper William Hesmer (quad strain) for a second straight MLS match.
Andy Gruenebaum blanked the Timbers in his first league start since 2009 but knows the challenge gets stiffer Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium, where the Crew have lost two regular-season games, one playoff match and a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal in March by a combined score of 11-2.
Non-roster ‘keeper Ray Burse was in goal for the latter because Gruenebaum and Hesmer were injured, but it doesn’t take away from the fact the Crew have struggled there.
Revenge won’t be a factor, Gruenebaum said.
“We have to worry about us,” he said. We don’t have to worry about anybody else. That’s the biggest thing. It truly doesn’t matter Saturday. A win or a tie would be great, but in the grand scheme of things, we’re still trying to find our way.”
Getting healthy would help.