Offense still looking to kick it into gear

D still strong, but Keller thwarts Columbus attack; Francis healing

Dilly Duka

Photo Credit: 
Jamie Sabau - Getty Images

The Columbus Crew are scoring at a near record-low pace, but have
been bailed out by a defensive corps that could set a mark of its own.
This past Saturday’s 1-1 tie with Seattle was the latest frustration for
an attack that has just eight goals in eight games.

“We created a number of chances at the end ... but we didn’t get lucky,” coach Robert Wazycha said.

WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: Columbus 1, Seattle 1

It is a recurring theme. Every week, the Crew (3-1-4) manage to
squander opportunities, but the Seattle match was the first time this
season a goalkeeper took points away from them. Kasey Keller didn’t have
an easy save among his six, including an Andrés Mendoza free kick in
the last minute of the game.

“There were plenty of opportunities, probably the most I’ve seen since the beginning of season,” forward Emilio Rentería said.

Warzycha has used Rentería as a lone striker with one of the
midfielders playing underneath him. Two matches ago, it was Eddie Gaven.
Dilly Duka (pictured above) moved into that role vs. the Sounders but
was replaced by Mendoza in the 61st minute as the formation switched to a
4-4-2.

The lone goal came when Rentería converted a penalty six minutes
later after Chad Marshall was fouled during one of the 10 failed corner
kicks. Rentería has all four Crew goals in the past three games and two
have come from the spot. In fact, half of the team’s eight goals have
been via PKs. Of the four scores from open play, two have come when the
opponent was down a man.

At a goal per game, the Crew are threatening the 2006 team for
offensive ineptitude when they had 30 goals in 32 games (0.94). Contrast
that to the 2008 MLS Cup champion squad, which averaged 1.66 (50 in 30
games). Last season, they averaged 1.33 goals (40 in 30).

Defensively, if the Crew can maintain their 0.75 average (six
allowed in eight games), they will surpass the team record of 1.03 (31
in 30) in 2009.

IN RESERVE

Left back Shaun Francis (left hamstring strain) played 45 minutes in
his season debut during Monday’s 1-0 Reserve League win against
visiting New England. Rookie Justin Meram scored in the 88th minute.
Francis doesn’t think he’ll be ready for the first-team game on Saturday at San Jose.

“I’m not there yet,” he said. “Last week was my first full week of training.”

Rookie midfielder Santiago Prim suffered a right ankle injury after being tackled. He was being evaluated later Monday.

Forward Arnhold Rivas, a 21-year-old trialist from Guadalajara,
Mexico, who played at Querétaro, subbed for Tommy Heinemann to start the
second half.

BY THE NUMBERS

20 – Points after eight games last season (6-0-2), seven more than this year.

2 – Successful penalty kicks by Renteria to tie for sixth on the
Crew career list with Warzycha, Doctor Khumalo, Kyle Martino and
teammate Eddie Gaven. Guillermo Barros Schelotto (13 for 15) is the
leader.