OBETZ, Ohio — With five goals in 10 games, it’s fair to say Emilio Rentería’s production is impressive.
But the Columbus Crew forward is bothered by a number that is almost three times his goal total — the Venezuelan has missed 14 games, mostly because of various leg muscle injuries.
“If you count five goals in 24 games, it’s not really good,” he said through an interpreter. “But it’s important to go out there and help my team and hopefully score more.”
Last Saturday marked Rentería’s second appearance since May 21, entering in the 58th minute against the New England Revolution with the score tied 1-1. After Julius James scored the tiebreaker, Rentería converted a goal-box pass from Robbie Rogers in the 81st minute to ice the victory.
“What he brings up top is definitely a bunch of energy whether he’s starting or coming off the bench to change the game,” captain Chad Marshall said. “It’s exactly what you want from your forward. He’s going to battle, make it difficult for defenders and hold the ball up.”
Despite a left hamstring strain at the start of the season and a left quadriceps muscle strain in late May that he re-aggravated July 23, Rentería doesn’t consider himself unlucky.
“It comes with being an athlete,” he said. “You have injuries. I don’t like the strains. I have a lot of muscle mass. That happens in any sport.”
When healthy, his bullish runs have effectively put him in a position to score. He had half of the Crew’s first eight goals of the campaign, and has the best goals per 90 minutes average in MLS (0.73) for players with more than five appearances.
“He’s a really strong forward, very physical,” Rogers said. “That adds something to our game that sometimes we don’t have. He’s dangerous.”
Columbus hope Rentería can avoid injuries over the final 10 games to allow him and Peruvian forward Andrés Mendoza (seven goals) to develop some chemistry. They have only played 57 minutes together this season.
“I like and respect Andrés and like the way he plays,” Rentería said. “He’s Latino and I understand the way he thinks. Usually forwards are kind of selfish. We don’t consider ourselves like that. If someone is open, we’ll get the ball to them to help them score.”
If coach Robert Warzycha pairs the South Americans he hopes Rentería’s presence will create space for Mendoza, who hasn’t scored since June 26.
“Hehas some speed," Warzycha said of the Venezuelan, "so as a defender you should worry about where he is on the field. He also has a good shot that you have to watch for.”