U.S. Open Cup: Higuaín "eager" to play in Fourth Round clash with Fire
Much like he did on May 29 against Dayton Dutch Lions FC, Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha plans on fielding a side of experienced players mixed with youth for Wednesday's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round matchup with the Chicago Fire (8:30 p.m. ET / LIVE stream on TheCrew.com). Though Warzycha and the Black & Gold have dealt with injuries to key contributors like Eddie Gaven (torn ACL) and Chad Marshall (strained hamstring), the Head Coach sees a benefit to playing young players in important games in the Open Cup.
"I think with the injuries we have right now, we don't have a choice [but to play younger players]," Warzycha explained. "There is going to be a mixed age group [against the Fire]. I don't have a problem with that. They have to learn at some point. Having a game in Chicago -- away from home when the game is really important -- is really going to benefit [young] players."
Rookie Homegrown defender Chad Barson, who started his first meaningful game for the Crew in the team's 2-1 win against Dayton, says there has not been a drop off in team chemistry due to an influx of younger players like himself.
"I think we have a good team chemistry -- not just the normal starters, but from one through thirty we're a tight team," the rookie said. "I think that translates onto the field. You can throw different guys out there and get different looks, but the style of play stays the same. There's a pretty good chemistry and bond with everyone on the field."
Warzycha will count on Crew captain and Designated Player Federico Higuaín to lead his team in Wednesday's match. No matter the competition, the Argentine playmaker is eager to contribute to his club.
"I came here to play as much as I can play," Higuaín said. "The more I can play, the better. I was brought here to play, so whenever the team needs me -- whether it's Open Cup or the League -- I'm eager to play. I want to play.
"It's one of our priorities to win and keep advancing in the tournament tomorrow. Hopefully we can keep a good chemistry between [experienced and young players]."
If the score is tied at the end of 120 minutes in Open Cup play, a winner will be decided by a penalty shootout. To make sure his team is prepared for all scenarios, Robert Warzycha has ended the team's training sessions this week with practice from the penalty spot.
"I think you have to be prepared for everything," he explained. "It's not like we're not going to score goals. Maybe at the end of the day, it's tied 4-4 at the end of regulation and later we have to take penalties. We have to be prepared. We have to make sure the guys are prepared for everything that could happen in Chicago."
Federico Higuaín has converted three-out-of-four penalty kicks for the Black & Gold in MLS play this season. The science of a penalty shootout he says is "just trying to get the ball in."
The Captian continued: "A PK well-taken is simply one that ends up in the net. We hope not to get to that point, but if we do, we just hope to come away winners."
While many have debated the fate of deciding a winner via penalty shootout, Warzycha admits it's the fairest way of crowning a victor.
"[Taking penalties] is a skill you have to have. Soccer is about skills," He explained.
"I'm not in favor of playing another day or few more hours just because you want to finish the game on a goal. I think it's a unique skill; it takes concentration to take penalties. It's been this way for years."