The last time the Columbus Crew had to play more than one match in a week was a stretch between June 29 and July 7 where the team played two road matches and one at home in a nine day stretch. Beginning Saturday, the team will face three games in eight days; all of their opponents are currently in possession of a playoff spot, including the Houston Dynamo, who the Crew are trying to catch for the final Eastern Conference playoff berth.
For Head Coach Robert Warzycha, the saving grace of the stretch may be that it begins with two home matches.
“I think [the difficulty of playing a tightly-packed schedule] depends on when you play and whether you’re traveling or playing at home and is there a heat factor or are you playing in altitude,” he said after training on Thursday. “Having these two games at home, I'm sure that's going to help.”
Warzycha says that while all of his players may not be able to play three full 90 minute matches in the short stretch of late summer heat, they will all likely want to.
“I think at this time of the season, we have some healthy bodies,” he said, “and they probably think that they can, but there is going to be a couple of things that I'm sure we're going to come up with, and that's going to be fatigue factor.”
Though many coaches may rest players in anticipation of such a pivotal midweek matchup, Warzycha said that the team cannot afford to rest anyone, as they sit several points out of playoff positions.
“I don't think we have games to do that,” he said with a grim smile. “We have to take one game at a time and try to win.”
Midfielders Bernardo Anor and Justin Meram each missed the team's trip to Salt Lake City, where the club lost 4-0 to Real Salt Lake, and neither player says that they welcomed the break, even before a busy stretch.
“Not one bit,” Meram said. “I wish I was there to battle with this team and maybe change the outcome.”
Anor said that while he feels refreshed after his break, his focus is never on anything but playing.
“On one hand, it gave me a little bit of time to rest before these games coming up in a tight space,” he said. “But at the same time, I didn't want to leave the team. I don't want to be outside the field, I want to be there 100 percent with them for every single game.”