Despite Columbus' 2-1 loss to Swedish side Malmö FF in their first preseason game on Wednesday in Bradenton, Fla., Crew coach Robert Warzycha saw the positives.
“Overall, I’m very happy with the performance,” he told MLSsoccer.com.
As promised in an interview the day prior, Warzycha mixed newcomers with returnees and veterans with rookies. Emilio Rentería scored in the first minute on a rebound after a shot by Dilly Duka, but Malmö got goals from Mathias Ranegie in the 24th and Jimmy Durmaz five minutes later in a match that consisted of three 45-minute periods.
“We started well, scored early and put some pressure on them,” Warzycha said. “That’s basically what we said before the game – score the first goal and see what happens.
“They scored two goals off set pieces,” he added. “The second goal, they have some big guys and were able to capitalize on that.”
Warzycha opted not to play defender Sebastián Miranda (shoulder bruise) and Eddie Gaven (ankle) because of injuries suffered in training on Tuesday. Goalkeeper William Hesmer has been out since Saturday with a sprained ankle.
“If that was a league game, [Miranda] would have played,” Warzycha said. “We watched [Malmö] against D.C. United [1-1 on Feb. 2] and knew it was going to be a physical game. That’s why we decided not to play him. We need him for the rest of the preseason. That’s the same reason Eddie did not play. He wanted to play, but as the coach, I had to say no.”
The Crew used 25 players and started with a backline of rookie Aubrey Perry at right back and trialist Lance Laing at left back, with captain Chad Marshall and newcomer Carlos Mendes as the center backs.
Ethan Finlay, the Crew’s top pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, manned the right side of midfield. Rookie Kirk Urso teamed with Cole Grossman in the middle to augment Duka on the left wing. Offseason acquisition Milovan Mirosevic played behind striker Rentería.
“I’m especially happy with Milo and the guys in the middle,” Warzycha said. “They did a pretty good job.”
Andy Gruenebaum went 90 minutes in goal before being relieved by rookie Matt Lampson.
Midfielder Silvio Spann, another trialist, went the final 55 minutes while forward Olmán Vargas from Costa Rica played 68 minutes in his Crew debut.
Warzycha was pleased to see midfielder Danny O’Rourke go 55 minutes as he continues to show no signs of the knee problems that plagued him last season.
The Crew will face the US Under-17 team on Saturday at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. They are expected to play two games consisting of two 35-minute halves each.