Rentería happy to join Crew midfield mix

Venezuelan hopes to find a home, playing time at right flank

When the Crew signed Venezuelan international Emilio Renteria last August, it was supposed add scoring to a forward corps that, with exception of Guillermo Barros Schelotto, lacked firepower.

Rentería, 25, may eventually provide support for the Crew – just not at the position expected. He used Tuesday’s exhibition against Ohio State to demonstrate that he's taking a liking to playing the right flank. Renteria had two nice setups to Jason Garey and another to Sergio Herrera during the 4-0 victory.

Granted, the match wasn’t against the caliber of a Major League Soccer opponent, but Rentería nonetheless showed he's learning better field awareness and improving his decision-making.

“The first goal he played a perfect ball,” Garey said. “He played it at the right time I made my run. It was just the way you draw it up. As he keeps playing there he’ll get better and better.”

Rentería played only 177 minutes in the 2009 regular season and didn't register a point, although his tying goal in a Champions League match at Puerto Rico advanced the Crew into the quarterfinals. Coach Robert Warzycha showed his faith in him with a start in the first playoff game against Real Salt Lake.

Yet Warzycha moved Renteria to the midfield in the preseason upon the arrival of Herrera, a forward from Colombia who has yet to make an appearance in a regular-season game for the 2-0-2 Crew.

“In preseason, [Rentería] was just tearing up people down the right side,” Garey said. “He’s getting better at knowing when to cross and when to go at them. He’s doing great. He’s got all the physical tools.”

Rentería has played just 17 minutes this season (all last month against FC Dallas), so he was thrilled to go the full match against Ohio State.

“I’m happy to play games,” he said via defender/interpreter Gino Padula. “It doesn’t matter if I play against college [teams]. It’s important for players who don’t play very often to be ready when the coach needs him.”

His appreciation for playing on the right side continues to grow.

“I never played in this position before, but I like it,” Rentería said. “I’m adjusting to the position. I know I have to drop a little more and help the midfield line but I will improve.”

Warzycha thinks Rentería’s biggest hurdle is learning to be a two-way player.

“He needs to play more defense and be in the right spot,” he said.

Garey’s natural position is as a striker but he has also moved to the flank on occasions so he understands the adjustments for Rentería.

“As a forward, you’re playing with your back to the goal a lot and it’s your job to score goals,” Garey said. “This is a different style of play because you run at people. Outside, it’s great to score goals but you’re the guy trying to get the ball into the forwards. It’s a different mind set. You have to create stuff.”

There are times, though, when Rentería is still able to unleash his own powerful strike. It’s not always accurate but it’s the hardest shot on the team. Late in the Ohio State game, he ran onto a ball from Garey and pelted the right post from 25 yards.

“I laid it back to him and I said, ‘I’ve got to see one because he can really smash it,’” Garey said. “That’s one of the disadvantages of playing on the right sometimes. He doesn’t get to take that shot a lot but if he comes inside a little, and with his right foot, he can crush it.”