Crew Notebook: Duka OK with bench role

Anor impresses in debut; Ekpo to play underneath lone striker

OBETZ, Ohio — Midfielder Dilly Duka went from starting against D.C. United in the season opener to being a substitute last Saturday against New York, but he’s not complaining about getting only 34 minutes vs. the Red Bulls.

“The coach went a certain way,” Duka said of Robert Warzycha. “He decided to go that way. There’s nothing to say about it. We have good players.”

After Duka got the nod the first match over Robbie Rogers, rumors swirled that Rogers asked to be traded. The team denied the talk said there are no plans to deal him.

Rogers returned to the starting 11 and played until the 64th minute when rookie Bernardo Anor replaced him. Duka entered eight minutes earlier for midfielder Dejan Rusmir, and the diminutive playmaker’s 101 minutes in two games are approaching the 160 he had for all of last season.

“When you come off the bench you really have to run your [butt] off, help the other guys who have already been out there and try to contribute whether it’s offensively or defensively,” Duka said.

Warzycha will not decide until later in the week who will man the left side against visiting FC Dallas on Friday, but the situation is further complicated because Rogers is in California for the funeral of former teammate Steven Lenhart’s father.

STEPPING UP:

A Venezuelan was on the field against the Red Bulls, but it wasn’t forward Emilio Renteria, who missed his second straight match because of a hamstring injury.

Instead it was Anor who made his MLS debut and showed some nice touches to go with a few mistakes of the sort expected of a young player.

“For his first game he did okay,” Warzycha said. “He’s still taking too much risk in the defensive third and that’s where he has to be more responsible. He can run at people and make good passes. If he can play like that he will see more time on the field.”

Anor said he was ready for the opportunity.

“I was mentally prepared,” he said. “When I’m on the bench I hear the crowd, but when I’m about to get in I am focusing on keeping things simple and doing my best. I felt pretty good to finally get some playing time. I have put in a lot of effort with the team.”

Anor is from the University of South Florida in Tampa, the same school that produced Crew forward Jeff Cunningham, albeit 13 years apart.

STRIKE FORCE:

Warzycha switched from two strikers in the box (Cunningham and Andres Mendoza) in the 3-1 loss to DC to having midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo play underneath Mendoza on Saturday.

While the Crew did not score, they did find more dangerous positions against the Red Bulls. The final pass, however, was still lacking.

“If you look at the two games, we definitely had more success playing with one striker and Ekpo behind him,” Warzycha said. “We pressured them higher. We’ll see this week [at practice] how we’ll play. We’ll try both things and now we have [Rentería] coming back.”

Rentería trained Monday but Mendoza left a few minutes early with what Warzycha described as a tight left hamstring.