OBETZ, Ohio — When Robbie Rogers (pictured above) returns next week from US national team duty at the Gold Cup, he will find that his competition on the left flank has changed.
Before leaving three weeks ago, he was the starter over second-year player Dilly Duka with veteran Leandre Griffit pushing to get on the field as well. Since then, both Duka and Griffit have gotten hurt and two rookies have emerged at Rogers’ position.
Justin Meram, who is listed as a forward but fits comfortably on the wing, has become a spark off the bench. He had assisted the late tying goal by Rich Balchan at New York on June 4 and set up another last Saturday at Houston.
Bernardo Anor was the recipient of Meram’s pass against the Dynamo that resulted in his first career goal. Anor also assisted on the goal by Andrés Mendoza in the Crew’s 2-0 win to earn the MLS Player of the Week award.
Suddenly, the Crew look deep on the left side of the midfield, especially when Duka and Griffit get healthy.
“All five of us are good players,” Meram said. “It’s whoever steps up and takes it, that’s who the coach is going to go with.”
If they were ranked strictly on their offensive abilities, Rogers would probably be fifth in the group, but it’s his experience and defensive effort he brings that coach Robert Warzycha likes. That’s why Rogers will likely regain his starting spot when the Gold Cup is over, despite not dressing for any US matches lately.
“He was called to the national team for a reason,” Warzycha said. “I don’t think a player coming back from the national team has to prove again he is a good player. He practices every day with the best US players, so that is a learning experience."
Anor said the competition at all positions is making the team better.
“You’re going to work harder every day just to be on the field,” he said. “It’s not only me, but everybody else wants to be on the field, too.”
Warzycha isn’t worried about the potential overload at left midfield. In fact, he welcomes the opportunity.
“The guys can play different positions,” he said. “We have a lot of options.”