Even when not scoring, Renteria draws a crowd
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Like any other forward, Emilio Rentería wants to score. But he’s keenly aware that if teams focus on trying to stop the 5-foot-9, 178-pound bulldozer from getting into good spots, he's most likely is helping the Columbus Crew in other ways.
“For me, it’s great to have a player like him,” midfielder Milovan Mirosevic said. “When he has the ball at his foot, usually he handles the situation with two guys on him. That’s important for a guy like me or any other guy that is coming from behind. It’s very good that he can keep the ball.”
The situation should be no different Saturday when the Crew play at Toronto FC (2 pm ET, watch LIVE online, TSN/RDS in Canada). Rentería draws a crowd - two defenders or more - leaving space for Mirosevic, Eddie Gaven and whoever's on the left side of midfield to operate.
And even then, he often finds ways to get the job done himself.
“He didn’t score the last game so he created a penalty,” Crew coach Robert Warzycha said.
Rentería battled - some might say bullied - his way into the box last weekend against Montreal with two Impact defenders draped on him. Using his stocky body as a shield, he was able to induce a foul by Felipe Martins that led to a PK for Mirosevic en route to a 2-0 victory.
“The goal is to win,” Rentería said as assistant coach Ricardo Iribarren translated. “If I score, great, but if the team wins, that’s the most important thing. If I can help any way, that’s what I want.”
Injuries and call-ups to the Venezuelan national team limited him to 18 games last season, but Rentería still had eight goals.
With last year's leading scorer Andres Mendoza gone, Rentería has taken it upon himself to help Mirosevic and another newcomer, forward Olman Vargas, to find their form as quickly as possible.
“Every morning, I wake up thinking I want to score three goals a game, but my main goal is to win games and be in the MLS Cup in December,” Rentería said. “If I had to choose between being the leading scorer or winning the MLS Cup, I’d choose winning the MLS Cup. That’s what I’ve wanted since I’ve come here.”
Mirosevic and Rentería got off to a slow start in the opener, but showed the ability to connect in Week 2. It's progress born of familiarity, and to hear Mirosevic tell it, there's more to come.
“I have to start knowing more of his movements, what he likes to do, where he likes to receive the ball,” Mirosevic said. “He, of course, is trying to do the same with me.”
All the way into December.