No one was more reliable for the Columbus Crew last season than right back Sebastián Miranda. The Chilean veteran – in his first year in MLS – gave a solid and steady effort every game with few defensive lapses while playing all but 16 of 3,060 possible minutes.
However, his second season hasn’t gone as well through eight games. He’s already missed 44 minutes of action – partly due to a strained hamstring – and there have been more mistakes than coach Robert Warzycha expected.
“His game is a little bit off, but he’s getting there,” Warzycha explained.
When pressed for specifics, the Crew coach provided some insight into the areas in which his right back has struggled.
“His decision making basically," the Warzycha said. "You can see sometimes he’s in a spot he’s not supposed to be. Sometimes he is supposed to be in the spot earlier or later.”
Columbus need Miranda to step up. They are in the middle of a 0-3-2 stretch heading into Saturday’s game against FC Dallas and have dealt with frequent changes in the back four.
“I felt good all last year,” Miranda said. “I have to try to play the same way or better. The first two or three games weren’t good for me. Now I’m feeling good again and have more confidence with the team.”
The Crew’s defense has been sporadic, going from a 4-1 defeat to New York on April 7 to recording their third shutout in a 0-0 tie at Portland last Saturday.
Miranda thinks four goals allowed (including a penalty kick) in the past four games is an indication that despite injuries to defenders Chad Marshall, Julius James, Carlos Mendes, Danny O’Rourke and Rich Balchan, the team is jelling.
“We’re getting better,” Miranda said. “Maybe we can’t win the games, but the way we are playing we are closer to winning than losing.”
Warzycha thinks the Miranda of last season is ready to reemerge.
“I hope pretty soon he’s going to show he’s much better than at the beginning of the season,” he said.
Marshall may miss out
Warzycha told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday that Chad Marshall continues to suffer from concussion-like symptoms suffered after being hit in the head with a ball during practice last Friday.
Marshall sat the final two months of the 2007 season with a concussion and has missed several games since because of them but the lingering symptoms from the latest could be the most severe. While listed as “doubtful” on the injury report, don’t expect Marshall to play Saturday.
Meanwhile, rookie midfielder Kirk Urso has a groin injury and will not train the remainder of this week and next to prevent further damage. He is the 11th Crew player currently nursing an injury.
Columbus got some good news when Carlos Mendes (hamstring) and midfielder Dilly Duka (hamstring) participated in some limited scrimmaging Wednesday. They are close to being cleared for full training but Warzycha is not counting on either to be available Saturday.
“We are not going to rush it,” he said. "You have to be careful."