COLUMBUS, Ohio — To play or not to play: That is the question. Whether it is nobler to take the weekend off and save all for MLS or face an inferior foe and possibly suffer misfortune.
OK, so we do don’t know if William Shakespeare was a soccer fan, but the dilemma facing Columbus this month presented a drama of its own (Taming of the Crew?).
With two bye weekends in April, coach Robert Warzycha filled the free time with scrimmages against college foes. It didn’t seem to help the first game back when the Crew tied FC Dallas on April 10.
The Crew are coming off 90 minutes' worth of play vs. Duquesne University and the University of Louisville last Saturday and hopes to parlay that effort into a win this coming Saturday against Real Salt Lake in Crew Stadium. Points to ponder until then:
Pay to play: Despite losing defender Eric Brunner to a concussion against Marshall University on April 2, Warzycha said the reward is worth the risk when going against collegians that aren’t usually as polished.
“We are not in Germany," he said. "We are not in England where we can schedule the games against other professional teams. We are not in Europe that we can travel 20 miles and get a good game. We are not in South America, São Paulo, where you have 10 teams or even more. We are doing the best we can.”
Midfielder Brian Carroll knows the quality of the college exhibitions is not on par with league games but they are necessary.
“You have to go in knowing you need to work hard and get the most out of them,” he said. “You can do all the running you want in practice but you’re not going to improve your level unless you’re getting some sort of game minutes.”
The Crew have two more exhibitions scheduled: the annual Connor Senn Memorial Match at Ohio State on May 4 and the first meeting with the new Dayton Dutch Lions on June 19 in Dayton. The Premier Development League club is touting it as the “Battle of Ohio.” That should be interesting.
French dressing? Crew technical director Brian Bliss said on Saturday “It’s coming to a head” whether French midfielder Leandre Griffit is offered a contract. The two sides have agreed to a deal but the team must decide if it wants to pull the trigger and get it done this week.
Ironically, Griffit was one who benefited from the college games. He first showed well against Marshall on the left wing to get the Crew brass’ attention and he could provide cover for Robbie Rogers, who has a sprained ankle.
The Crew would have to release a player to sign Griffit. Could offseason signee Colombian striker Sergio Herrera be the one? He didn't play in either CONCACAF Champions League match in March or the first two MLS games.
Filling his time: Although defender Jed Zayner wanted to spend the last month playing instead of rehabbing his knee the injury allowed him to direct full attention to his charity work.
Zayner is founder and executive director of the non-profit Filleo Co., an organization that sells clothes to help fund education projects and provide clothing to the needy. He has a fundraising auction of Crew merchandise on eBay through April 26. For more information, check his blog.
(Sick) bay watch: In addition to Robbie Rogers’ gimpy ankle and Zayner’s knee, Steven Lenhart (leg bruise), Eric Brunner (concussion), William Hesmer (shoulder) and Frankie Hejduk (hamstring) will be monitored as to their status for Saturday.
Midfielder Danny O’Rourke will sit because of red-card suspension and defender Shaun Francis (ankle) is not ready to return.
A number of things: With RSL coming to town, the Crew look to improve on their 7-4-1 record in the first meeting with the previous year’s MLS Cup winner. The Crew have won four of the past five such encounters. Overall they are 11-17-5 against reigning champs the following season.