With Jairo Arrieta back, Columbus Crew coach Robert Warzycha faces lineup dilemma
OBETZ, Ohio – There are times when Columbus Crew coach Robert Warzycha refuses to discuss his starting lineup when asked, even if it's clear he's set his team.
Then there is an occasion such as Friday's training when he admitted he hasn't yet figured the best 11 to face visiting Chicago on Saturday (8 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).
"I don't know," Warzycha said to MLSsoccer.com. "I run through my head a lot of scenarios, the same with the coaches, and we can't find a solution that is right."
His dilemma is whether to reintroduce Jairo Arrieta to the lineup upon his return from Costa Rican national team duty during World Cup qualifying.
He has to consider that the Crew (5-5-5) had their most impressive result last week without Arrieta: a 2-0 win vs. Eastern Conference-leading Montreal.
"I don't like changes after a win, but he is a good player who maybe should be on the field," Warzycha said.
And if Arrieta does play, would he take his usual position at forward in front of Federico Higuaín? In Arrieta's numerous absences this season Dominic Oduro has scored five of his team-best seven goals from that spot.
"I've made my case," Oduro said. "The coaches know that if I'm up front I'm very, very productive. I'm not saying I'm not productive on the wing, too, but my chances of bringing goals is higher than if I'm playing on the wing."
Although Arrieta has only one goal in 10 Crew matches (seven starts) after scoring nine times in 18 games last season, his confidence has not waned.
"I'm hoping to be able to start on Saturday," he said. "If that's not the case, I'm ready to come off the bench and do as much as I can for the team."
Warzycha could keep Oduro, normally a right midfielder, at forward and insert Arrieta on the left wing where he spent some time for Deportivo Saprissa, his former club in Costa Rica.
That means one of last week's starters, Bernardo Añor or Ben Speas, would be benched.
"Somebody is going to be disappointed," Warzycha said. "Maybe I shouldn't think that way, value their reaction, but it still bothers me I can't put somebody on the field that deserves to be on the field."
There are mitigating factors leading to his decision. Speas was ill early in the week although he trained the past two days and Arrieta is leaving again soon for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, so Warzycha might try to get as many minutes from him now as possible.
Costa Rica wanted Arrieta to report next Monday for their first match on July 9 at Portland. Arrieta said this week he would rejoin the national team after the Crew's match at Sporting Kansas City on June 29 but Warzycha hopes to keep him through the game at the LA Galaxy on July 4.