On many fronts, the Crew got what they needed out of their friendly against Argentine side Independiente.
First, the competition was a cut above what most of the players were used to facing in the reserve matches scattered throughout the schedule.
Second, the match was a chance for some youngsters, and players whose progress had been stymied by injury, to show what they could do.
Finally, anytime the Crew step on the field they are representing Major League Soccer, even against an opponent that is about a month away from the start of its season.
Behind goals from usual starter Robbie Rogers and seldom-used forward Jason Garey, the Crew defeated Independiente 2-1 to run their international record to 10-2-2.
Rogers gave the Crew a 1-0 lead in the 63rd minute off a drop pass from Garey that went across the penalty area and was uncontested by the Independiente defense. Garey added the second goal four minutes later off a give-and-go with rookie Ricardo Pierre-Louis.
For Garey, the goals help ease the frustration of an injury-plagued season. He has seen only 12 minutes of MLS action this season. Rogers has also been struggling. Even though he is second on the team with five goals, he has not scored in eight league games.
Independiente cut the margin on a side-volley from Pablo Vitti in the 83rd minute. Columbus third-string goalkeeper Kenny Schoeni denied Vitti and Enzo Bruno the equalizer less than a minute later to preserve the lead.
Schoeni entered at the start of the second half and kept the match scoreless with two point-blank stops of Victor Sosa in the 55th minute.
While neither side was at anywhere near full strength, the Crew were on the offensive from the start when Corey Elenio fired a shot from 15 yards that Independiente goalkeeper Walter Assmann pushed over the bar.
The Crew fielded an opening lineup with only three of the usual starters. Danny O'Rourke, a converted midfielder, was at center back, alongside rookie Andy Iro. Outside midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo was on the right flank for 23 minutes until he was replaced by Andrew Peterson.
In the past two matches, O'Rourke has played all three spots across the back, including the left side, and coach Sigi Schmid was looking to add to his experience in the middle. Iro, meanwhile, has made seven league appearances this season, with three starts.
Andy Gruenebaum has not seen a minute of MLS play this season but got the nod in goal over Will Hesmer, who was among seven starters who did not dress. MLS assist leader Guillermo Barros Schelotto was not on the bench against his countrymen. Forward Alejandro Moreno, the Crew's top scorer, was another onlooker, as were defenders Chad Marshall and Frankie Hejduk and midfielders Brian Carroll and Brad Evans.
As expected, Schmid went with a mixture of young players and veterans who have missed considerable time due to injuries. Brazilian-born midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi, who missed six MLS matches before making a late appearance Saturday against the Fire, got a chance to play the first 45 against Independiente. Midfielder Duncan Oughton played a rare full 90 minutes.
Also, defender Ezra Hendrickson returned from a groin strain that has caused him to miss four MLS matches.
Craig Merz is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.