COLUMBUS, Ohio — When the Columbus Crew face rivals Toronto FC in Saturday's Trillium Cup match in Toronto (2 pm ET; TSN, MLSsoccer.com Stream of the Week), they’ll have at least one important new face in their lineup: forward Jairo Arrieta.
The Costa Rican international has been away with his country in the CONCACAF Gold Cup for most of the month, and with the Crew in danger of missing the playoffs for the second year in a row, the team is leaning on Arrieta to be the difference maker they need with the dog days of summer here.
When discussing whether the forward could provide the necessary spark to the team, Crew head coach Robert Warzycha asked, “Are you asking me if he’s going to be a savior?” He then smiled and answered his own question: “Yes, he can be.”
Arrieta's return does, however, present Warzycha with a difficult lineup decision for the weekend. Dominic Oduro has been the team's most consistent scoring threat with eight goals on the season, but Arrieta has been in good form with Costa Rica and is hungry for MLS goals. Though both men prefer to play up top, Warzycha isn't comfortable going with an overly attacking formation.
“I think one thing you can't do is unbalance the team and think that if you put more attackers on the field there will be a better result,” he said. “At some point are we going to see Arrieta and Oduro up front and see [attacking midfielder Federico Higuaín] with them? Maybe if we're trying to win the game late.”
Warzycha's attempt to stay balanced likely will move one of the two forwards to the wing. Oduro prefers to play on the right side, and Arrieta has played limited minutes on the left for the Crew, but has seen a bit of wing action with his national side. Though he did not specify which striker would play centrally, Warzycha seemed to hint at Arrieta returning to the top.
“I think his best position is close to the goal because he's a natural goalscorer,” he said. “I think he can play all those positions, but he'll be more effective depending on the game. No matter the position, he has to be in the box.”
Arrieta simply seems happy to be back with his MLS team, and says that he doesn't see himself altering his play, even if he has to start wide.
“I'm very comfortable with the position,” he said. “I've played like that for Costa Rica, and I've played in the position for [the Crew], and I'm confident. I feel confident in what I have, and I'm focused on getting the best results for the team. We're just looking for the win; if the goals come from me or from any other striker, they're welcome.”