Crew open to more changes in suddenly deep front line
OBETZ, Ohio – The Columbus Crew aren’t planning on moving any forwards, technical director Brian Bliss told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday, even though Federico Higuaín has been added to the already crowded position. But that could change with the right offer.
“We’re not out there actively seeking anything," Bliss said, "but if there’s something that makes sense for the club that’s going to help us in the future, I think we’re going to be open to it."
The trade deadline and roster freeze is Sept. 14 and the Crew should know by then how well Higuaín (above), the Argentine signed last Friday as a Designated Player, fits into the system. He is expected to be eligible for either the Aug. 11 match vs. Toronto FC or four days later against the LA Galaxy.
Columbus head coach Robert Warzycha knows there’s an excess of potential forward partners for Higuaín and is not ruling anybody out.
“We don’t have the combinations between two forwards,” Warzycha said. “That’s what we’re looking for to be successful.”
Prior to the season, Emilio Rentería was projected to be one of the strikers to replace former DP Andrés Mendoza, who had 13 goals but was released. Rentería had eight goals in 18 games in 2011 but has struggled with two in 16 matches.
“If Emilio finished his chances, he’d probably have 20 goals right now,” Warzycha said.
Rentería may have lost his job to Jairo Arrieta, the Costa Rican who in only his third match Saturday at Sporting Kansas City scored his first two goals and was named MLS Player of the Week.
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The impending arrival of Higuaín could also knock Olman Vargas, a teammate of Arrieta on the national team, further down the depth chart.
Vargas was a highly publicized acquisition in January but his only goal was in the second game of the season and he hasn’t started in nine matches while unheralded rookie Aaron Schoenfeld has gotten more minutes than him lately.
“It’s competition,” Warzycha said. “There was competition between him and Emilio and then Arrieta and Schoenfeld. Whoever holds the ball, whoever helps the team and creates more chances is going to play. It’s as simple as that.”
Others who are considered forwards but can also play in the midfield are Ethan Finlay, Justin Meram and Homegrown Players Aaron Horton and Ben Speas. Midfielders Eddie Gaven and Milovan Mirosevic have been used up top as well and forward Tommy Heinemann (knee) is out for the season.
“We’ve got a glut of forwards,” Bliss said. “We’re not actively looking to move these guys but if somebody would [be] looking at our roster and say, ‘You guys have got a glut, would you be interested in X,Y, Z?’ we’re going to look at it for sure.”
Bliss said that because of salary cap constraints any deal would likely be for draft picks and/or cash.
Warzycha is amenable to more moves.
“We’d do anything to improve the team,” he said. “That’s why we’re here. That’s what the fans want us to do.”