Shaun Francis
Edgar Acero

Crew Notes: Search for right combos continues

With just eight days to go until the Crew host Real Salt Lake in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, the search for the right combinations continues.

On Monday, the Crew fell 2-0 to Colorado in Phoenix to drop their mark to 1-2-1 with the final game in Arizona on Thursday vs. Houston. Sanna Nyassi and Steven Emory had goals for the Rapids in the second half.

Crew forward Jeff Cunningham started with Andres Mendoza for the first time and they created some trouble for the Rapids back line but could not find the back of the net. Mendoza, who missed the first two games because of the flu, had a goal called back because he was ruled offside.

Rookie Justin Meram subbed for Cunningham in the 70th minute.

The Crew maintained the same starting four defenders for the second game in row as 2011 first-round SuperDraft pick Rich Balchan paired with Chad Marshall in the middle. Chilean newcomer Sebastian Miranda manned the right back spot while Shaun Francis (above) took the opposite side.

Andy Iro relieved Balchan to start the second half while trialist Josh Gardner replaced Francis with four minutes to go.

With Eddie Gaven sidelined with a knee injury the midfield quartet of Robbie Rogers, Dilly Duka, Kevin Burns and Emmanuel Ekpo remained unchanged from Thursday’s 3-0 win vs. Seattle. Rookie Cole Grossman and Serbian trialist Dejan Rusmir were second-half subs.

[inline_node:328752]Goalkeeper William Hesmer went the distance in only his second outing since getting clearance to play after suffering a separated right shoulder on Oct. 24. He went 30 minutes against Seattle last week.

GROUND CREW: While the Crew Stadium staff prepares the field for the Feb. 22 vs. RSL, team president/general manager Mark McCullers is already looking ahead to the 2012 season.

With the announcement last month that Major League Lacrosse has awarded Columbus an expansion franchise for next year, there’s a good possibility games will be played in the stadium.

Some discussions have been held with MLL officials.

“The pros are, it puts more people on the stadium, which adds value to our sponsorship relationships and additional revenue for the stadium,” McCullers said. “I think there’s a crossover market with soccer so the cross promotional opportunities and relationships will be good for us.”

His concern is the fatigue on the grass.

“There can not be any negative impact to the soccer playing surface under any circumstances,” McCullers said. “One part of the plan is to shift their field around, even from game to game, so that the wear areas are not in the same place. Obviously, the crease and the goal are the concerns with the lacrosse.

“If we can get assurances in these areas, especially from a field standpoint, then, yeah, we’d love to have lacrosse,” he added.

Scoring Summary:

COL – Sanna Nyassi (66’)

COL – Steven Emory (77’, Cummings)

Columbus Lineup:

William Hesmer, Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Rich Balchan (Andy Iro, 46’), Shaun Francis (Josh Gardner, 86’), Robbie Rogers, Kevin Burns (Dejan Rusmir, 72’), Emmanuel Ekpo (Cole Grossman, 72’), Dilly Duka, Jeff Cunningham (Justin Meram, 70’), Andres Mendoza

Colorado Lineups:

First Half: Ian Joyce, Kosuke Kimura, Tyrone Marshall, Drew Moor, Anthony Wallace, Brian Mullan, Jeff Larentowicz, Ross LaBauex, Wells Thompson, Caleb Folan, Conor Casey

Second Half: Steward Ceus, Drew Moor (Mike Holody, 61’), Marvell Wynne, Scott Palguta, Logan Emory, Sanna Nyassi, Joseph Nane, Wells Thompson (Steven Emory, 61’), Jamie Smith, Omar Cummings, Andre Akpan

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