Crew face stiff test before World Cup break

Winless in their last two games, East leaders travel to Colorado

COLUMBUS, Ohio – There’s a “school’s out for summer” feel right now, but the Crew have one more exam before the players get away from the sport for an extended period.

The Crew will play their third match since last Saturday and second on the road in four days when they face the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.

“It’s definitely going to be tough, midfielder Eddie Gaven said. "We’ve got a lot of tired guys."

Fortunately for the Crew, they don’t have another match until they host D.C. United on June 26.

“We know after [Saturday] that we’ve got a break, so we’ll give everything we’ve got and look forward to coming back after the World Cup break,” midfielder Adam Moffat said.

Some of the players will fly to vacation spots after the Rapids’ match because practice doesn’t resume until June 14.

Head coach Robert Warzycha is getting an early start because on Saturday he will be in the Columbus suburb of Dublin for the high-school graduation of the youngest of his three children, daughter Olivia.

The assistant coaches and technical director Brian Bliss will run the team in Warzycha’s absence, but the veteran squad shouldn’t be affected by the change or the impending respite from soccer.

“We’re not really thinking about the break,” Gaven said. “We’re focused on Saturday’s game and how we can play better.”

There is too much at stake for the Crew (6-1-3) not to concentrate on their third straight match against a Western Conference foe with a winning record.

The Crew fell 2-0 at home to Los Angeles on May 29, and on Wednesday they twice gave up the lead before settling for a 2-2 tie at San Jose [WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: SJ 2, CLB 2].

“The ball hasn’t bounced our way the last two games,” Gaven said. “We can’t let that get us down.”

Leaving Colorado (5-3-1) without a victory would put a psychological burden on the team. The players would have plenty of time to stew about a three-game winless streak, and when it takes the Crew Stadium field against D.C. United it would be more than a month since its last victory on May 23 vs. Kansas City.

“Anytime you’ve got a bit of a break you want to be going into it on a good note,” defender Andy Iro said.

Even though Warzycha won’t be at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo., his imprint will be on the lineup.

He made three changes against San Jose with Eric Brunner starting for Iro, Emilio Renteria going for Moffat and Jason Garey replacing forward Steven Lenhart.

Warzycha has to consider not only the quick turnaround, but also the altitude. He likely will have some fresh legs on the field, with his biggest decision being whether 37-year-old forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto starts.

It’s a situation where normally Schelotto would be a strong candidate to sit, but the impending break could weigh in his favor.
Still, Warzycha said the past is more important than the future in determining the starting XI.

“I’m not looking to what happens after Saturday,” he said. “Just because they have a week off afterward I can’t push them. There is a limit to when you can push them. We have to see who is the fittest and freshest.”

No matter who plays the emphasis will be on shoring a suddenly weak defense. After allowing six goals in the first eight matches the past two games have been nightmares and the absences of injured defenders Frankie Hejduk and Danny O’Rourke have contributed to the problem.

“The goals we let in we’re a little soft,” midfielder Robbie Rogers said after the San Jose match.

On the first, Arturo Alvarez struck from the top of the box as four Crew stood around him. The second in the 79th minute by Chris Wondolowski to tie the match was off a free kick when he was left unmarked at far post to receive a flick.

The Galaxy also took advantage of grievous errors to score on two of three shots.

“We’ve got to a better job of marking our men if we want to get a win in Colorado,” Rogers said.