The Crew will face one of the few burdens of that comes with having one of the most potent strikers in Major League Soccer this week as Jairo Arrieta is away on international duty. The forward, who has scored 10 goals in 21 matches since arriving in Columbus in the middle of the 2012 season, will miss Saturday's match at D.C. United as he represents Costa Rica in 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against the United States and Jamaica. This could be the first of many call-ups for Arrieta this season as La Sele attempts to qualify for next year's World Cup in Brazil and participates in this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup.
With Eddie Gaven likely to return from an ankle injury and his replacement Ben Speas impressing in the last two matches, one solution could be to move Dominic Oduro forward from right midfield to striker and slot Gaven into the lineup on the right wing. The speedy Ghanaian has played central forward for most of his eight-year MLS career prior to joining the Crew in February.
"I want to be out there playing all the time, regardless of what position it is," Oduro said after Tuesday's training session at Crew Stadium. "I'm very comfortable playing up top. I'll be glad to fill that spot. Whatever the coaches decide, you've got to respect that and just go out and play your heart out."
Transitioning from the right to the head of the attack would present different responsibilities for Oduro. However, the switch should not trouble the speedster.
"You've got to be alert up top," he said. "Our formation is in such a way that that guy up top has to give options for the guys on the wings and the guy in the middle. I think it's something I would really have to be aware of.
Oduro continued: "I believe [the other Crew attackers] know my style of play. It's just a matter of me trying to make the right runs. I've played in that position many times that I'll be aware of what I should do and what I shouldn't do at a certain point in time."
Another option could be to start rookie Ryan Finley up top, who started most of the Black & Gold's preseason matches while Arrieta was away on Costa Rica duty at the Copa Centroamericana. A physical presence in front of goal, Finley scored 56 goals during his college career split between time at Duke and Notre Dame.
Finley is preparing for Saturday's match as he would any other by working hard to impress his new coaches in training.
"I'm just approaching it as a normal week," the rookie explained. "I've said from the beginning that I'm just going to come in and work as hard as I can whether Robert [Warzycha] wants to start me, play me 30 minutes or not play me at all. It doesn't change my mentality, I'm just going to continue to work as hard as I can."
No matter who starts against D.C., the competition in training this week should benefit the team as a whole.
"I think the guys enjoy competition and that's what you need to get better," Finley said. "I think that if you know you're starting week-in and week-out, you can slide a little bit in training. Here, everyone is battling. Everyone is working and it brings the level of training higher."
Though he has yet to set a lineup for Saturday, Head Coach Robert Warzycha has faith both players can contribute in Arrieta's absence.
"Dominic is a speedy guy and Ryan is a rookie who scored a lot of goals in college," the Head Coach said.
"I don't know who I am going to start, but I have confidence in every single player."