OBETZ, Ohio – The Crew hope pride, and perhaps money, can compensate for not fielding a first team when they play at CSD Municipal on Wednesday.
Although the Crew can clinch a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals with a win or tie, most of the regulars did not travel to Guatemala and coach Robert Warzycha is willing to risk the lead in Group B to save players such as Frankie Hejduk, Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Chad Marshall for other competitions.
“I rested Guillermo against [Santos Laguna] last week, even though people didn’t like that, so he would have a good performance Saturday at New England,” the coach said.
Schelotto’s penalty kick salvaged a tie for the Crew vs. the Revolution and put them atop the Eastern Conference by a point over New York.
The Crew host San Jose on Saturday and then play at the Seattle Sounders on Oct. 5 in the final of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
MATCH PREVIEW: Municipal vs. Columbus in CCL
“We played two games last week,” Warzycha said. “Then you’re going to ask a guy like Frankie to play a game Wednesday and obviously another game Saturday then Tuesday and [Oct. 8 at Chicago]? You have to have a give and take. The same with Guillermo. We have to see the big picture.”
The lineup on Wednesday could have backup Andy Gruenebaum in goal with a defense that includes Andy Iro and Eric Brunner in the middle, Shaun Francis on the left and Duncan Oughton at right back. In the midfield it could be Kevin Burns, Adam Moffat, Dilly Duka and Leandre Griffit. Jason Garey and Andrés Mendoza will likely man the forward spots.
Also, left back Gino Padula has recovered from knee and ankle injuries and may see his first action since July 14.
“I know we’re leaving some people at home, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going out to win the game,” Gruenebaum said. “There’s no excuses.”
There will be money at stake, too. Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement ratified before the season, MLS teams collect cash bonuses for each CONCACAF Champions League group game they win. The Crew are 3-1 in CCL play so far with two matches left.
“We want to win every game,” forward Steven Lenhart said.
If Columbus reach the quarterfinals as they did last year, they will pocket further bonuses. Plus, they have already earned money for reaching the Open Cup title game and would collect still more for winning it.
“We play a lot of games in a lot of different competitions, and our main goal in all of them is to finish first and win championships,” Gruenebaum said. “We’re still in the hunt in all those things. That’s why we take it one game at a time because two days later we have another game.”