The Columbus Crew staff have repeatedly emphasized that marquee offseason signing Milovan Mirosevic has contributed more than the stat sheet shows, despite the fact that the midfielder had gone more than three months without a point.
Sunday at Montreal, the Chilean broke out of that rut, scoring his second goal of the season and first since March 24. He was then subbed off in the 71st minute, and his absence may have proved his worth to the team even more.
Head coach Robert Warzycha’s cautious approach with him as he returned from an adductor strain may have cost the team points when the Impact rallied for a pair of goals and a 2-1 win after Mirosevic left the match with 20 minutes to play.
“If he would have stayed on the field probably until the last moment, maybe we would not [have given] up the goals,” Warzycha said on Tuesday. “But we had to take him off at 70 minutes because we were worried he was getting fatigued and not 90-minutes fit.”
Mirosevic gave the Crew (6-6-4) the lead in the 64th minute with a powerful header off a Nemanja Vukovic corner kick. But the combination of the hard natural grass surface and fears of re-aggravating the injury caused Warzycha to replace his field general with forward Aaron Schoenfeld.
Montreal not only had nine of their 16 second-half shots and four of their five shots on goal following Mirosevic’s departure, but they also got a goal from Zarek Valentin in the 78th minute and a penalty kick by Patrice Bernier 11 minutes later to take the full three points.
The Crew could simply not hold possession after getting the lead and were forced to defend for the latter stages.
“We drove back too far,” Warzycha said. “We were winning the ball in front of our box, which was 70 yards from the goal.”
Columbus like to hold the ball, as they did successfully in their previous match – a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake – and make their opponent chase the game.
“We want to work side-to-side, still going forward, making teams work longer periods,” assistant coach Mike Lapper said. “That’s giving us more rest time with the ball and not always having to defend.”
It didn’t work out that way against Montreal and, while Warzycha could be questioned for the substitution, it should be noted that Mirosevic’s status for Saturday vs. Sporting Kansas City is unclear.
He was first injured midway through the game at San Jose on May 19. Mirosevic missed the next two games, then went 90 minutes on the turf at New England but sat the next match at Chicago before playing the final 38 minutes against RSL.
“[We are] worried that if [we] push him too much, he is going to get injured again,” Warzycha added.