Homegrown Speas ready for opportunity if called upon
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Chad Marshall likely won’t play in Columbus’ season finale vs. Toronto FC on Sunday in Crew Stadium (4 pm ET, watch LIVE online). Danny O’Rourke definitely won’t, as the injuries that have plagued the Crew’s defensive corps all season continues to the bitter end.
Marshall missed last weekend’s loss at D.C. United with a sprained ankle, the same one he had operated on nearly a year ago, and was still in discomfort this week.
“I don’t think there’s any chance he’ll play,” Columbus head coach Robert Warzycha told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “Maybe it’s better for him not to play so he doesn’t damage it if it’s something serious.”
Another factor is the Crew (14-12-7) were eliminated from playoff contention last week and Toronto long ago were out of the running, so the postseason matchups around the league will not be affected by Sunday’s outcome.
Meanwhile, O’Rourke replaced Marshall against D.C. but suffered a concussion and will not be cleared to play, although he was symptom-free for the first time on Thursday. Without the pair, the number of combined games missed by the center backs this season due to injuries or suspensions will be at least 93 after Sunday.
That figure could climb if Julius James or Carlos Mendes have problems with their hamstrings. As of Friday, though, Warzycha said both would be available for selection Sunday.
Midfielder Milovan Mirosevic is also bothered by a hamstring strain and is doubtful. If he doesn’t play, there might be an opportunity for forward Ben Speas to debut, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes late.
“If I get the chance, that would be great,” the Homegrown rookie said. “Experience is experience.”
Speas, second-year Homegrown forward Aaron Horton, sophomore defender Rich Balchan and veteran goalkeeper William Hesmer are on the only ones on the current roster who have not played in a first-team match this season.
Hesmer was injured from the start and underwent season-ending hip surgery in April. Balchan had two sports-hernia procedures this year and played his first competitive match last Sunday for the Crew reserves after appearing in 18 MLS games in 2011. Horton played one match last season but has been limited to reserve games, exhibitions and the US Open Cup this year.
That leaves North Carolina alum Speas (above) as the lone player yet to experience MLS action in his career.
“It would be big for the club if he played,” defender Eric Gehrig said. “A lot of people are excited about Ben Speas. He’s shown what he can do in college. If he gets a chance to showcase his talents on Sunday, I think he’ll do a good job.”
Warzycha said his philosophy won’t change just to get somebody such as Speas on the field.
“We’re going to put the best team on the field,” he said. “It’s going to be a massive, massive game. The fans come here every game to support us. We owe thanks to them. Even though it won’t get us in the playoffs we need to go in and play a normal game.”