OBETZ, Ohio – At first glance it appears Columbus Crew head coach Robert Warzycha is providing the San Jose Earthquakes some bulletin board material when asked how his team will prepare for Saturday’s game compared to Tuesday's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final.
“Having a game at home against San Jose, on paper it’s going to be much easier than the game at Seattle because of the travel plus turf,” he said.
Was he slighting the Earthquakes? Absolutely not.
Warzycha is merely happy to have a game in Crew Stadium on real grass, especially after the club's last two matches.
In midweek they played a CONCACAF Champions League group match in a quagmire in Guatemala a few days after tying New England 2-2 on Gillette Stadium's artificial turf. Tuesday's Open Cup final will also be staged on turf at Seattle’s Qwest Field.
Saturday’s home game will also mark the seventh match in 22 days for Columbus. The Crew are two games into a stretch of six of seven on the road through the end of the MLS regular season.
“More so than anything, it’s the travel that affects people’s bodies,” midfielder Duncan Oughton said. “Mentally we’re a pretty strong team.
“We’ve had a few (games) and got a lot coming in a tight period of time,” he added. “It will be interesting to see how guys recover and who’s ready to go. It’s a busy time. It’s tough on the guys with families and kids but it’s what we do.”
At least for the moment the Crew are as close to full strength as it has been since mid-July with only defender Danny O’Rourke (back) unavailable on Saturday.
The players returning to health include forward Emilio Renteria, midfielder Robbie Rogers and defender Chad Marshall. Renteria and Marshall missed the past two games while Rogers has not played since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Aug. 13.
A vibrant Rogers could help on the left flank.
“He’s the fastest guy on the team,” Warzycha said. “We’re missing his speed. I’m sure teams have to make some kind of adjustment when he’s playing.”
Rogers can prevent opponents from cheating into the middle and clogging lanes for Guillermo Barros Schelotto. He is also able to provide good service on occasion, as evidenced by his five assists last year.
What Rogers has lacked is the ability to score. Since he scored five goals in the first seven games of the 2008 season, he has only three in the ensuing 57 regular-season matches and one goal in six playoff games.
“When Robbie was healthy he was doing a good job, but that would be something for his confidence to score a goal,” Warzycha said.