OBETZ, Ohio – As far as head coach Robert Warzycha is concerned, the Crew have done enough through their first four CONCACAF Champions League games to justify sending a skeleton squad to Guatemala for their next match on Wednesday against CSD Municipal.
Columbus have a 3-1-0 record with two games left, including Wednesday, and lead Group B by two points over Mexico’s Santos Laguna (2-1-1). Municipal (1-1-2) are two points back of Santos for the final qualifying spot into the quarterfinals. The Crew need only a tie to advance.
“To be honest with you, we don’t need the point,” Warzycha said. “We don’t need any more points if [Santos] wins against Guatemala [in the final match]. We have to be smart and we have to leave some players behind. We’re going to take enough to play.”
He said only 15 players will travel.
“I can make only three subs anyway,” Warzycha explained.
Injuries to Chad Marshall (neck), Danny O'Rourke (back), Robbie Rogers (knee) and Emilio Renteria (groin) will likely have played a part in Warzycha’s decision. All but O’Rourke are expected to be available Saturday when the Crew host San Jose.
Warzycha will also rest several starters from last Saturday’s win over New England. Guillermo Barros Schelotto, William Hesmer, Brian Carroll and Emmanuel Ekpo won’t make the trip to Guatemala.
Starting Wednesday, the Crew will play four times in 10 days in two countries and four cities that are all in different time zones.
Included is the US Open Cup final in Seattle on Oct. 5 and a league game three days later at Chicago.
“The bigger picture is the Open Cup,” Warzycha said. “Our priority right now is the Open Cup and the next home.”
The Crew have not won the trophy since 2002, which is why Warzycha will be emphasizing the Oct. 5 matchup despite having a one point lead over New York for the Eastern conference title with four games left.
“It’s about time to win another one,” he said. “It’s an Open Cup final so tell me, is it less important than the game on Saturday?”
The only thing assured appears to be advancement in the Champions League.
Santos should have no trouble with a weak Joe Public of Trinidad (0-3-1) at home Wednesday. A win coupled with a Crew loss or tie means Santos will probably take the group. They have Municipal at home on Oct. 19 and are unlikely to lose.
Ideally, Columbus will know their fate before closing group play Oct. 21 at Joe Public. Warzycha would love to send the second team to Trinidad because the race in the East might come down to the final day when the Crew host the Philadelphia Union on Oct. 24.
But there will be a lot of air miles between now and then.
The team makes the eight- to nine-hour trip to Guatemala on Tuesday and returns Thursday. The Crew will leave for Seattle on Sunday and head to Chicago the day after the Open Cup. They will then have to travel to Canada for an Oct. 16 match at Toronto FC.