For just the third time in 49 matches, Robert Warzycha will have to draw up his gameplan without the veteran presence of Eddie Gaven in his lineup as he prepares for Saturday's match against the Houston Dynamo (7:30 p.m. ET / FOX Sports Ohio). It's something Warzycha will have to get used to as Gaven has been ruled out for the remainder of the 2013 season after the midfielder suffered a torn left ACL in the Black & Gold's Open Cup match against Dayton Dutch Lions FC on Wednesday.
"You can't replace Eddie Gaven," the Head Coach said Thursday. "There's only one Eddie Gaven. Somebody's going to have to step in and basically play the best games of their life."
Warzycha has options to fill Gaven's role on the wing going forward in the season. Primarily left wingers, second-year Homegrown Player Ben Speas has returned from a hamstring injury while Justin Meram has started the Crew's last two matches opposite of Gaven on the right. Ethan Finlay could also be an option on either wing.
"It's tough to fill-in a spot for Eddie Gaven because he's one of our best players," Meram said.
"We have depth and we've shown it these past two games with Gláuber being out and Kevan [George] and Eric [Gehrig] stepping in. Me contributing, as well as [Ben] Speas, Ethan Finlay -- you can name it, Aaron Schoenfeld, so I think we'll handle it pretty well."
If able to recover in time from a thigh contusion suffered last week against the New York Red Bulls, Dominic Oduro could see a return to the right wing in-place of Gaven. In that scenario, Jairo Arrieta would likely return to leading the Crew frontline after missing the last two matches due to suspension.
HOME SWEET HOME
Disappointed in back-to-back home losses to the New York Red Bulls and Colorado Rapids, the Black & Gold ride the momentum of picking up four points in consecutive road matches in their return to Crew Stadium on Saturday against the Dynamo.
"I think we've done well on the road," defender Eric Gehrig said. "We knew it was going to be tough, but when you get four out of six points -- almost the full six points -- it's something to be proud of.
"With the results we've gotten, we're building confidence and we're starting to point the ship in the right direction."
Added Meram: "It's our home field and the last two games we had at home, we didn't get a goal and we had two losses. I think we had a positive run on the road, and we've just got to come out at home."
The Crew has only lost twice in 14 all-time meetings with the Dynamo. The Black & Gold's only home loss to Houston came back in 2007, but Robert Warzycha believes history will be thrown out the window once the whistle blows on Saturday.
"It doesn't matter if we were very successful in the last 14 games [with the Dynamo], I think this game is different," the Head Coach said.
"There are different players, different time of the year and a lot differences. I think we have to take this game as the first game we've every played and play as best as we can."
BOTH SIDES MISSING REGULARS
Just as the Crew will be missing Gaven, Chad Marshall (hamstring strain) and Agustín Viana (hamstring strain), Houston will be without several key starters on Saturday as well. Influential midfielders Brad Davis and Oscar Boniek Garcia are representing their countries in international friendlies, while defender Bobby Boswell serves the second match of a two-game suspension for headbutting the New England Revolution's Dimitry Imbongo on May 18. Also along the backline, Jamaican International Jermaine Taylor has been ruled for Saturday's match and leftback Corey Ashe is questionable.
Warzycha isn't concerned with who is on the field for the Dynamo; he intends to earn the three points at home.
"We want to win the game, it doesn't matter who they have on the field," the Head Coach said. "Obviously, our side is no different. I think we're missing a lot of players too, but we're playing at home and we need those points."
With four goals apiece, the Dynamo still has its dangerous frontline tandem of Will Bruin and Giles Barnes on Saturday. The Crew defense will have its hands full in matching the physicality the Houston attack brings.
"Just when you're proud of for what you did against Thierry Henry and the likes of Tim Cahill, there's no real time to dwell on that," Gehrig said. "[The Dynamo has] two very athletic forwards. They like to bang bodies, that's the way Houston plays. They fit the style very well.
"We have to be prepared physically and mentally. It's going to be a long, grueling game, but with the success we've had the last couple of weeks against the likes of [Robert] Earnshaw, Henry, Cahill and [Fabian] Espíndola I think we're feeling good. We're not going to back down."