COLUMBUS, Ohio — Not only will the Columbus Crew play visiting Chivas USA on Saturday (7:30 pm ET, Direct Kick, MatchDay Live) attempting to break a 203-minute goal-less streak, but they will have to do so without their only player to have found net in the last five matches.
Forward Emilio Rentería suffered a left quadriceps strain in last week’s 1-0 loss at Portland and has been ruled out indefinitely.
That’s bad news because his team-leading four goals (two via penalty kicks) are the lone tallies for the Crew since Robbie Rogers’ goal in the 53rd minute against Sporting Kansas City on April 16.
The Crew (3-3-4) have been blanked four times, including a 0-0 tie at Chivas on April 9, and have tried several combinations to unlock an offense whose eight goals are tied with Philadelphia for the fewest in MLS.
Tommy Heinemann made first start alongside Rentería against the Timbers and was Columbus’ most dangerous player in the 4-4-2 formation that was somewhat of a departure from the usual single-striker scheme.
Coach Robert Warzycha said even without Rentería, the two-forward system might be used Saturday, but that’s not really much of a change than the 4-5-1 with Dilly Duka playing behind a lone attacker.
“If you look at the Portland game, on paper we played with two forwards, but Emilio was playing the same way as Dilly had played,” Warzycha said. “He was right in the middle. Tommy was high. Did we have two forwards? Yes. But they played the same way. With Tommy being fit and aggressive maybe we can squeeze some scores out of him.”
Based on Thursday’s practice, Heinemann could be paired with Jeff Cunningham, who has played only 71 minutes since starting the season opener. If that’s case, then Designated Player Andrés Mendoza will be on the bench as the Peruvian continues to struggle in his first full MLS season.
“No matter how good a quality player you are, it’s difficult to adjust to a new league and a new lifestyle,” Warzycha said.
Mendoza’s lone goal in seven games (three starts) was a penalty against FC Dallas on April 1. He heads a list of players who need to step up their game.
Midfielder Eddie Gaven is Mr. Reliable and can play any position across the midfield as well as forward but like Mendoza, his only score game in the Dallas game.
He had three goals last season but none in the final 20 matches. Gaven was invaluable in 2009 as a secondary scorer with six goals but in the present circumstances is needed to score more, especially since he is handling almost all of the set pieces after the departure of Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
The Crew would like to get more production out of midfielder Rogers, too. They hope it starts Saturday, because he could miss all of June’s MLS slate while with the US national team at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Rogers rebounded from a poor 2010 (one goal) with a good start, but lately has not been effective. He has two goals and an assist but no points since April 16.