There could be changes in the Columbus Crew lineup for Saturday’s match against Portland that would have come regardless of the 1-0 loss at the LA Galaxy on Wednesday.
A third-minute leg injury to forward Andrés Mendoza that forced Tommy Heinemann into the game early will likely keep the Crew’s leading scorer (seven goals) on the sideline.
“I am pretty sure he won’t play on Saturday,” coach Robert Warzycha said of the Peruvian.
Although Mendoza was goal-less in the previous three matches, the Crew could have used his services to avoid their eighth shutout of the season and fifth on the road in 10 matches.
“He’s a quality forward,” Warzycha said. “He’d probably get one or two chances in a game. He was very sharp [Tuesday in practice]. He was finishing very well.”
Saturday’s match will be the third in eight days for the Crew and the added burden of traveling midweek has taxed the team.
“We have to do something,” Warzycha said. “The players are tired and some of them are underperforming, so we have to find a better lineup for Saturday—fresher legs and score some goals so we can win.”
Warzycha will take stock after Friday’s practice. Will forward Emilio Rentería and defender Shaun Francis be available after long injury absences? If so, how long can they last?
Is midfielder Tony Tchani, acquired Friday from Toronto FC, recovered from a knee injury?
The status of holding midfielder Rich Balchan is unknown as well. The rookie missed two games with a groin injury but traveled to Los Angeles only to feel a twinge during Tuesday’s practice. He was on the bench as rookie Eric Gehrig made his third straight start.
“He wasn’t ready," Warzycha said of Balchan. "We didn’t want to risk it long-term.”
There are still plenty of options beginning in the center midfield where Dejan Rusmir and Kevin Burns have not seen much of the field lately. First-year midfield/forward Justin Meram has been in regular rotation off the bench, usually on the left wing.
And what about forward Jeff Cunningham? His game-winner at Vancouver on July 6 is the Crew's only score in the past four games. It also tied the MLS career mark of 133, but he had only the final two minutes at LA to break the mark.
The back line lacks experienced depth, especially with the trade of Andy Iro last week and the continued absences of Francis and Danny O’Rourke.
On May 29, 2010, the Crew took all 15 corner kicks in the match vs. the Galaxy and lost 2-0. LA didn’t have quite that advantage Wednesday (16-3), but even with David Beckham’s bending in-swingers, they couldn’t score.
“We gave up a lot of corners but we defended them well,” Heinemann said. “We kept good shape.”
He credited goalkeeper William Hesmer, who had another outstanding game and was beaten only by a long deflected shot by Sean Franklin.
“Off the corners, Will did a really good job organizing us,” Heinemann said.