The script for matches in the altitude of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park rarely ever contemplates the visiting team making the final, hardest push at the end of a contest.
Yet that’s how it worked out in the first leg playoff match between Columbus and Colorado (a 1-0 victory for the Rapids) on Thursday night. And the explanation was self-evident.
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
In the 68th minute, Robert Warzycha made a double substitution of his forward line with experienced Peruvian Andrés Mendoza and the energetic Jason Garey replacing starters Steven Lenhart and Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
The Rapids had been dominant in every part of the field in the first half and there were no Crew players who saved face in that opening stanza. It did not help that Lenhart and Schelotto could not provide the speed and deep runs necessary to stretch the field and relieve some of the pressure.
The changes made by Warzycha in the second half finally gave the team an outlet and kept the Rapids defenders a bit more honest. Mendoza and Garey had the pace to attack the gaps left by Colorado’s roaming fullbacks, and set pieces ensued -- the Crew’s bread and butter -- along with some concrete scoring opportunities.
With the rematch at Crew Stadium in nine days, Columbus will have to win at all costs to keep their season alive. It may go against everything the Crew have done in recent seasons, but it is time to start with the energetic pair of Garey and Mendoza, especially when without the services of injured Venezuelan speedster Emilio Renteria.
Sure, Schelotto is an ace on free kicks and corners, but midfielder Eddie Gaven showed that he can fill in admirably in the role. And Lenhart has arguably stood out more and proven more effective when coming off the bench this season.
In Columbus, they will consider it heresy to bench Schelotto. It would prove a controversial move, but it’s time for Warzycha to convince the 37-year-old Argentine that he can be an asset to the team as a reserve to help manage a result.
Don’t let his nine goals and eight assists this season fool you: His limited mobility and pace becomes a liability in particular phases of a match.
To not sit Schelotto is to continue to postpone the inevitable. This Columbus team needs to and will evolve into a different unit that is no longer dependent on a single player.
Thursday proved that the process needs to start on Nov. 6.
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