OBETZ, Ohio – Columbus Crew coach Robert Warzycha promised a strong lineup for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup third-round match against the Dayton Dutch Lions last month and he delivered, though it came at a cost.
The good news was that the Crew that night advanced in the tournament for the first time in three seasons, but bad news came when it was revealed starting midfielder Eddie Gaven suffered a season-ending torn ACL in his left knee in the encounter.
Now, with the Crew playing at Chicago on Wednesday (8:30 pm ET, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) and a place in the quarterfinals at stake, Warzycha plans to once again go with many of his regulars with two notable exceptions in the backline.
Center back Chad Marshall (hamstring) and right back Josh Williams (calf) will be held out to have them ready for Saturday's MLS match against visiting Montreal Impact (7:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live). Marshall has missed the past five games in all competitions; Williams has missed three.
"Obviously there are going to be some guys who are in there against Chicago who aren’t playing much," Warzycha said. "With the injuries we have we don't have a choice."
Besides the two defenders and Gaven, the Crew will also be without opening game starters midfielder Agustín Viana (hamstring) and forward Jairo Arrieta (Costa Rican national team duty) for the pair of games this week.
However, Designated Player Federico Higuaín is expected to start against the Fire, as he did vs. Dayton, even though he risked injury playing the lower level Dutch Lions.
"It's a very beautiful tournament because it gives every club in the US a chance to participate," Higuaín told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday through a team translator. "Being able to win it would be a great accomplishment for me personally and the team."
Warzycha has no regrets using Higuaín even though the Argentine appeared tired a week later when he started for the fourth time in 11 days at Philadelphia in the 3-0 defeat on June 5.
"He wanted to play [vs. Dayton]. I can't second guess that," Warzycha said. "What if I lose that game? What then?"
The scrutiny would probably be even greater on him, especially since the Crew (4-5-5, 17 points) are 1-3-2 in the past six MLS games, meaning a win against the Fire would be a morale booster.
"We need to do everything we can to right the ship, get some momentum, play well and get some confidence going into Saturday at home," defender Eric Gehrig told MLSsoccer.com.
If the Crew do manage to defeat Chicago, they will host the Sporting Kansas City-Orlando City winner on June 26.