A miss Tuesday could be lethal.
The Crew host the D2 Rochester Rhinos in a round of 16 match looking to avenge last year’s loss at Rochester that went to penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie through regulation and overtime. The Rhinos prevailed, 5-3.
Crew backup Andy Gruenebaum was in goal a year ago and is expected to start again. He welcomes the possibility of more one-on-one challenges if necessary.
“There’s no pressure on me," he said. "It’s always on the shooter. I feel for some reason I excel at that. Last year was the first time in my career we’ve lost on a penalty-kick shootout. I guessed right every time, they were just placed so well and we didn’t make ours. If it gets there I feel very good about it.”
The Crew vow to take this year’s competition a little more seriously after fielding a squad from the back end of the roster for the road match last year. The travel, and the fact it was played on turf, left Crew coach Robert Warzycha compelled to rest most of his starters.
There will be a different approach Tuesday, with a few who played Saturday getting the start alongside some players with little or no minutes.
“I see a mix," Warzycha said. "I don’t think you can put out there a completely new lineup. We’ve got a game at home, so we’re very serious about it. Even if it was a game away from home we would play to win, but having it as home it’s much easier for everybody.”
The back line may have regulars Eric Brunner and Chad Iro along with Jed Zayner and possibly rookie Shaun Francis, who has yet to play. Warzycha could also put Duncan Oughton, Adam Moffat or rookie Othaniel Yanez in front of Gruenebaum.
It will be interesting to see if rookie midfielder Dilly Duka makes it onto the field for the first time after complaining last week about being on the bench. If he doesn’t start he will likely be one of the first called upon.
Also, newcomer Leandre Griffit should make his debut after being signed on May 13. Eddie Gaven will be one of the regulars to start in the midfield although veteran Emmanuel Ekpo is expected to play a major role.
Lenhart might be one of the starters up top. Warzycha likes to shake things up once in a while, so don’t be surprised if Gaven or Ekpo move to a forward spot.
Warzycha said the Crew will not overlook Rochester with an Eastern Conference battle against Chicago looming on Saturday. He sent assistant coach Ricardo Iribarren to scout the Rochester-Pittsburgh Open Cup game last week.
“You have to respect who you are playing against, Warzycha said. "It doesn’t matter if it’s Rochester. It doesn’t matter of it’s a PDL team. You have to go into the game with the right attitude.”
If the Crew advance, they could be home again on July 6 if the Charleston Battery (USL-2) win at the Chicago Fire. If Chicago win, the teams will play in Peoria, Ill., on July 6.