COLUMBUS, Ohio – Matchups against college teams don’t come any bigger than Saturday for the Columbus Crew.
Coming off a 2-0 opening day loss at Colorado on March and facing a bye weekend, the Crew need to correct a few flaws and answer some questions when they face Michigan State and West Virginia in exhibitions at Crew Stadium.
“Maybe it’s good we don’t have a game this weekend,” manager Robert Warzycha said. “We can find out how we can play better, fix a couple of things.”
Warzycha plans to field most of his starters in one of Saturday's games, possibly the 11 am ET tilt against Michigan State, and use reserves and maybe some Crew Soccer Academy players in the 1:30 pm ET match against the Mountaineers. Admission is free for the doubleheader.
One position of interest is left midfield after Dilly Duka suffered an ankle sprain in the 12th minute against the Colorado Rapids and is out definitely.
Rookie Ethan Finlay took his spot but Justin Meram’s recovery from an ankle sprain – he played in Monday’s scrimmage against Notre Dame – puts him in contention as well.
Another focal point is the option is to abandon the lone striker scheme that offered Emilio Rentería little support in the Colorado game.
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Olman Vargas would seem to be a logical choice to join Rentería but the Costa Rican has been slow to adjust to the pace in his first MLS season. Also, Warzycha said Vargas was behind in fitness during the preseason because of an offseason injury but is getting stronger.
Vargas will join his national team for a friendly vs. Jamaica on Wednesday but is expected to be available Saturday before departing.
Whatever tactics Warzycha decides for the March 24 match against Montreal, the central figure will be attacking midfielder Milovan Mirosevic (pictured above). The Chilean had some quality moments in his MLS debut but the Crew did not utilize his abilities, according to fellow midfielder Eddie Gaven.
“He was definitely one of the guys that helped us get a link from back to front,” Gaven said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think we were able to find him enough, which is something we need to do better because he’s someone who can help us hold the ball. He can help play some of the balls through for us.”
Look for the Crew to make that a point of emphasis Saturday.
It will also be worth watching whether goalkeeper William Hesmer sees game action after battling an ankle sprain for most of the preseason.
Also, the battle continues for the final spot on the Columbus roster as Supplemental Draft pick Jamie Finch and trialist Aaron Schoenfeld make their case in front of Warzycha.