Warzycha masters crowded schedule

Coach is among the best at balancing his lineup

Coach Warzycha

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The key to fielding strong teams in different competitions, as Crew coach Robert Warzycha has learned, is to always look ahead.

Sure, he had almost an entirely different starting lineup for Tuesday’s US Open Cup quarterfinal match against Charleston than started last Saturday against Chicago. But he was already configuring the team for its next three matches.

“It’s not just one game,” he recently told MLSSoccer.com. “I have to think about the game after that and the game after. It’s all connected.”

That’s especially true because of the most congested schedule of any MLS team coming out of the World Cup break.

In the three-week span from June 26 through July 17, the Crew will play a total of five league games and two Open Cup matches. They’re the only club to play three midweek matches followed by three weekend games, after this Saturday’s match at Houston followed by home games July 14 (Kansas City) and 17 (New York).

“It’s what we have to do,” Warzycha said. “You hope you have the players to do it.”

So far the formula of mixing and matching starters with reserves has worked. The Crew have beaten D.C. United and Chicago in MLS play and Rochester and Charleston to advance to the semifinals of the Open Cup.

Of course, it’s helped to have all the matches at home, as well as an injury-free squad for the first time this season.

Against Charleston, two-time MLS Defender of the Year Chad Marshall was the lone repeat starter from the Chicago match. Eric Brunner and Steven Lenhart (10 MLS starts apiece this season) were on the field and Eddie Gaven (12 starts) came off the bench.

“We’ve got to find a way to come out every game as fresh and as sharp as we can,” Gaven said. “It is going to be tough. It’s going to take every single guy.”

Marshall has played every minute of the past two games but next in line is Gaven at 119 after entering in the 61st minute of the 3-0 win against Charleston. Danny O’Rourke followed 20 minutes against the Fire by going the distance Tuesday, and Emilio Renteria has a combined 101 minutes (76 Tuesday) in two games.

Otherwise, the Crew should be in fine shape for the Houston match.

Regulars William Hesmer, Frankie Hejduk, Gino Padula, Andy Iro, Adam Moffat, Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Robbie Rogers did not play Tuesday, and Jason Garey was on the field for the final two minutes.

“We need to do a good job with the off days,” Carroll said. “We need to use them wisely and take the right breaks when we get them.”