OBETZ, Ohio — The Columbus Crew may feel fortunate they will be missing only Robbie Rogers for much of June while he’s with the US team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Especially considering Saturday’s opponent, New York, will have five players away with their national teams.
The Crew will need to find a replacement for Rogers in the rematch at Red Bull Arena, but injuries may limit the options on the left side of the midfield.
Dilly Duka did not dress for last Saturday’s game against Chivas USA because of a left ankle sprain and Leandre Griffit was absent for Monday’s reserve game at New York because of an undisclosed injury. Josh Gardner got a 45-minute audition on the left wing vs. Chivas when Rogers started wide right.
“That didn’t work,” coach Robert Warzycha said. “There was a little bit of confusion.”
Gardner has played nearly all of his first season with the Crew at left back and admitted that he spent too much time against Chivas covering the same space as left back Rich Balchan.
“Rich and I need to communicate a little bit more,” Gardner said. “It’s pretty loud, so we have to be louder when we’re yelling out directions.”
Warzycha moved Gardner to left back and Balchan to holding midfielder in the second half and the team settled down. Balchan has struggled lately in his rookie season and was victimized on Chivas’ first goal when he left his man unmarked.
“The goal he gave up at San Jose [on May 14] and here against Chivas were exactly the same,” Warzycha said. “He was supposed to cover the far post. It was the moment; a lack of concentration.”
Second-year left back Shaun Francis played in the reserve game and may be ready for his first team debut after missing every league match this season because of a hamstring strain. That doesn’t mean Warzycha is ready to give up on Balchan.
“Actually, you can see Balchan is making similar mistakes to Shaun when he started his rookie season,” Warzycha said. “There was a little ball-watching, too.”
Warzycha said he was surprised by the firings of Carlos de los Cobos and Teitur Thordarson only two months into the season. The two were canned by Chicago and Vancouver, respectively, on Monday.
“It’s early in the season,” Warzycha said. “This league is about the playoffs. You can win the Supporters’ Shield and lose in the first round of the playoffs [like the Crew did in 2009] and be very disappointed. You can be the eighth team going into the playoffs and win the championship like three or four of the past five years.”
GOING NOWHERE FAST
The Crew’s travel woes continue. Returning from San Jose on May 22, the connector from Chicago to Columbus was cancelled and most of the team rode a bus for more than six hours to get home.
Following Monday’s 6-1 Reserve League win against the Red Bulls, Warzycha refused to put his team on a bus with the air conditioning broke for the ride from the hotel to the airport in 90-degree conditions. After a replacement bus got them there, the Crew endured an hour-long delay in the terminal, then sat on the tarmac for another hour waiting for takeoff.
“The pilot said we were 18th in line,” Warzycha said. “Two minutes later he said, ‘Sorry, we’re 36th.’”