After midfielder Dilly Duka went down with an injury just 12 minutes into the Crew's season opener in Colorado, head coach Robert Warzycha wasted no time throwing first round draft pick Ethan Finlay into the fire. With Duka still nursing a pulled hamstring, the Creighton product is anticipating a spot in the starting lineup for Saturday's home opener against the Montreal Impact.
"Hopefully I can maintain that spot (in the starting lineup) through this week of practice," the rookie said after Wednesday afternoon's training session, "I'm excited for our first game at home. From everything we've seen this week, I think we're starting to click."
Finlay admits there are different preparations a player goes through between being a starter and substitute.
"Coming off the bench, I think you have a little bit of an advantage," the first round draft pick told TheCrew.com. "You can kind of see how (your opponent) is playing. Obviously, I didn't have that luxury entering 12 minutes into the game (against Colorado), but I think that's a little bit of an advantage of coming off the bench."
"If you're starting, you have to do a lot of homework before."
Whether Finlay is called upon as a starter or a substitute, the rookie will be ready to go just as he was when Duka went down in Colorado.
MENDES ON THE MEND
Defender Carlos Mendes may be ready to make his Crew debut on Saturday. Mendes was poised for starting spot on March 10 in Colorado, but injured his hamstring in training just days before First Kick.
"It was tough. You always work hard in preseason-- it's two months of hard work. Then, right before the season, I got hurt," Mendes said. "The good thing is that it was minor and we had a bye week to recover. Obviously, it wasn't the worst thing, but it's tough when you prepare all preseason."
Though Mendes wasn't fit to go in the Crew's weekend exhibitions against Michigan State and West Virginia, he is hopeful to be on the field against the Impact. Mendes returned to full training on Tuesday at the team's practice facility in Obetz.
"Hopefully, I get a good week of training. Obviously, Coach decides, but I should be ready because I've felt good the first two days (of training)."
Mendes was chosen by the Crew during Stage 1 of the 2011 MLS Re-Entry draft back in December after spending his entire MLS career in New York.
THE BEARD LIVES ON
Just before halftime in the Crew's exhibition against Michigan State on Saturday, midfielder Eddie Gaven and Spartan defender Mark Barone collided at full-speed, knocking both players to the ground. Although both players left the game, each player walked off on his own power with neither one sustaining major injuries.
"First and foremost, I was just glad that (Barone) was all right, because we definitely hit really hard," Gaven said of the collision. "I heard that he had a big gash on his forehead, but I'm glad to hear that he's doing all right."
Gaven did however split his upper lip, separating the mustache portion of his trademark beard. The Crew mainstay now sports a few stitches beneath his nose.
"It's doing about as good as it looks," Gaven said after training on Wednesday. "So not very good, because it looks pretty terrible."
Though he is not thrilled with how the wound looks, the 25-year-old is thankful no razors were brought out in order to stitch his lip.
"I was glad whoever put the stitches in was able to do it without shaving any of my facial hair," Gaven said.
The stitches are set to be removed next week and Gaven is hopeful no shaving is needed in the process.
"It would make a good Barbasol ad, but I'm not sure if it's going to happen. We'll see," he said, trying not to crack a smile.