With Jairo Arrieta injured, Columbus Crew's forward options become even more limited

OBETZ, Ohio – When the Columbus Crew traded their leading scorer in 2013, Dominic Oduro, to Toronto FC in June, head coach Gregg Berhalter knew they were thin at forward, with only Jairo Arrieta, rookie Adam Bedell and Dayton Dutch Lions loanee Aaron Schoenfeld as the remaining strikers on the roster.

And when Arrieta – the consistent starter for the Crew this season – pulled up lame during Saturday's 4-1 rout at the hands of the New York Red Bulls, it left the Crew with Bedell and Schoenfeld to turn to.

But after speaking to Arrieta, Berhalter says he's optimistic about the injury, and doesn't expect Arrieta to be out too long, though he was still waiting on results of an MRI at Monday's training session.

"We got the results during training, so I'm going to talk to the doctor after training," he said. "But my guess is it's a grade 1 hamstring strain of his left hamstring, which would be two to three weeks. That would be my guess from my conversation with Jairo."

Berhalter and the Crew have admitted they're looking for a forward, but Arrieta's injury comes when the team is in limbo between parting ways with Oduro and finding a new forward option. Is this the worst case scenario for the team?

"It's not great, obviously," Berhalter said. "[Arrieta] has been working extremely hard, he's been putting some good performances in. It's not ideal."

The bright spot, he said, comes in the form of Bedell, who scored his first MLS goal Saturday, showing his first sign of productivity on the season. Berhalter has high hopes for the rookie now that he has his chance.

"[Bedell] came in and scored a goal, Schoenfeld has been scoring in USL, so hopefully one of those guys can do a job," he said. "What's positive is that Adam came in and scored a good goal. I've been telling you guys that he's a good finisher, and he proved it. So that's good to see."

The Crew also have Justin Meram and Ethan Finlay on their roster, who transitioned to wide midfield in Columbus after playing striker in college. Finlay is the team's hot hand, notching four goals and two assists in his last seven matches, while Meram has seen sparing time up top already this season.

Could Meram or Finlay be the answer in Arrieta's absence? Berhalter wasn't tipping his hand.

"Those are all possibilities," he said.

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