SANDY, Utah – With less than 24 hours remaining until kickoff of the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League, Columbus Crew manager Robert Warzycha was still undecided Monday about who will defend his team’s goal against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer Channel).
“Will [Hesmer] is ready to play,” Warzycha told MLSsoccer.com ahead of Tuesday’s game. “So we’ll see later on.”
Hesmer has been recovering from a fractured shoulder, leading to the short-term signing of Ray Burse Jr., who played all 90 minutes in the first match at Crew Stadium.
The Crew manager also indicated that newly signed Julius James will be available to contribute to Tuesday’s Champions League quest off the bench.
“He’s going to be on the bench and we’ll see how it goes,” Warzycha said. “If we need a defender on the field, then he’s the right person to step in. He’s played with three different teams before and he was a starter for all of them. So I think he’s a good addition.”
The Crew coaching staff wouldn’t reveal their cards just before the match, but many expect Jeff Cunningham to replace the suspended Emilio Renteria and start alongside Andres Mendoza on Tuesday night.
Although Cunningham does not bring back fond memories for RSL – he scored a key goal which helped eliminate RSL from the 2010 postseason while with FC Dallas – being in Salt Lake City evokes images of his 16-goal, 11-assist season in 2006 when he wore Claret and Cobalt.
“It’s always a good feeling coming back here because I had a good spell here,” Cunningham told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “We’re here for an important match and it’s going to put more of an emphasis for me to have a good showing.”
[inline_node:329599]One of the Crew’s tactical modifications that gave RSL fits in the first leg featured Robbie Rogers and Eddie Gaven starting on opposite sides from where they are accustomed to kicking off a match. Warzycha says to expect more of the same and he confirmed that his wingers will keep flip-flopping throughout the match until the team finds success.
Luckily for Real Salt Lake left back Chris Wingert, he will adopt the same game plan to contain both players, who he considers to have similar characteristics.
“I know both of them pretty well, but that doesn’t mean that it’s an easy job,” Wingert said. “Hopefully we’ll possess the ball and I’ll be tight on those guys so that they can’t get a run on me and cause damage like they did a little bit last week.”
If Rogers or Gaven runs out of gas, 21-year-old Dilly Duka will be available to contribute off the bench after recovering from the abdomen injury that kept him out of last week’s affair.
Warzycha Down On CCL Rule
In an attempt to even the playing field during extra time should both RSL and Columbus remain scoreless at the end of another 90 minutes on Tuesday, CONCACAF rules that away goals during the subsequent 30-minute extra session do not count as double, as occurs during regulation.
“That’s why it’s fundamental that we try to score in the 90 minutes,” Crew right back Sebastian Miranda said. “Scoring any goal would force them to score two and I think that’s very important.”
While Miranda is accustomed to the system which also exists in Chile, Warzycha is not in agreement with the CONCACAF stipulation, arguing that if the value of an away goal is an advantage for the visiting team, playing the 30-minute extra-time session at home is an advantage for the home side.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s in full time or extra time,” Warzycha said. “Away goals, if you scored them in extra time, you should go through. … I think that’s the way it should be.”
Make sure to download the latest episode of ExtraTime Radio, featuring Columbus Crew defender Andy Iro on the CONCACAF Champions League series and ESPN's Allen Hopkins discussing Shalrie Joseph and his role with the New England Revolution.