COLUMBUS, Ohio – With the status of starting midfielder Eddie Gaven in doubt because of a sprained right ankle, it's possible Columbus Crew head coach Robert Warzycha might once again turn to Ben Speas to man the left flank for Saturday's home opener in Crew Stadium (5:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).
"Eddie trained with us today and will be a match-day decision for tomorrow's game against San Jose," Warzycha told MLSsoccer.com on Friday.
Speas made his second career appearance in the first XI last week at Vancouver and credited his pro debut in the 2012 season finale against Toronto FC for helping the Homegrown product prepare for their game against the Whitecaps, a 2-1 loss.
"It was nice to get that one last year just to see what it feels like," Speas said. "I think I was better prepared to play at Vancouver because of it. You always want to be ready when the coach calls on you so I kind of knew what to expect."
While Speas earned his first assist on Jairo Arrieta's goal in the 2-1 loss at Vancouver, Warzycha might also replace Gaven, if necessary, with Justin Meram. The third-year midfielder/forward did not travel to Chivas USA or Vancouver and Warzycha instead used rookie Ryan Finley twice for a total of 15 minutes.
Warzycha also made an unusual double switch in the center midfield in the 70th minute against the Whitecaps when he subbed Tony Tchani and Matías Sánchez, in his MLS debut, for Danny O'Rourke and Agustín Viana. "It wasn't planned before. It was part of the game," Warzycha said.
He felt O'Rourke and Viana were tiring. "All the players are good so I didn't risk anything," Warzycha said.
"They can only help. There was a lot of running in the middle. [Vancouver] overloaded the middle of the field. We needed fresh guys to keep pushing and pushing."
The coach has given no indication whether he would disrupt the O'Rourke-Viana combo that has started the first two games.