Coach Warzycha faces a difficult decision on Saturday with the recent National Team call ups and injuries. Starters Moreno, Hejduk, and Rogers are all out against Toronto FC and the key to how well the Crew do will depend on the players replacing them in the lineup, specifically who replaces Rogers.
Looking back to last week, the Crew struggled early in the game against Houston when Rogers and Padula were getting pinned back by the forward runs from the wings, but the Crew had their most sustained level of pressure when Rogers and Padula were able to press forward into attack. With Rogers having to leave with an injury, Houston was able to seize back the momentum and get the go ahead goal.
Toronto presents other challenges. Marvell Wynne is fast and can be dangerous if allowed to race forward into the attack. The best defense against an attacking full back would be a fast winger like Rogers. With him out, it really will be interesting in how well Rogers replacement does in pushing into Wynne’s space.
The likely replacement, Alex Grendi showed some nerves and did not look especially fast. If he does not step up early in the game, the Crew could be in trouble. Padula will be forced to stay back and not be in position to support the offense. Grendi needs to be a factor to force Wynne to keep track of him. Just be dangerous enough so that he cannot roam so far forward.
A similar situation could present itself on the right side with Danny O’Rourke patrolling unfamiliar territory replacing Hejduk. Gaven plays a defensive game with the offensive minded Hejduk behind him. That dynamic changes with the probable addition of O’Rourke. Gaven will have to look to being more of an offensive option and play a little higher if O’Rourke is tasked with staying back.
Not that it doesn’t matter, the final decision at striker may be the least important. Strikers are important, but I have faith that either Jason Garey or Steven Lenhart can fill in if the Crew maintain a single forward formation. Both have the skills to be successful, either by scoring goals or providing that support role that Moreno does so well.
This is the first big test for Warzycha. Missing three starters against a greatly improved conference foe for your home opener is and unenviable position, but every coach is tested. I am extremely interested to see how he reacts.