Tuesday, August 25, 2009

8/25/09: Hejduk Available For Cruz Azul, Schelotto Prepared For Full 90, & Renteria May Be Available As Well

After being out for the last month, U.S. international Frankie Hejduk started full training on Monday and will be available for the Crew's trip to Mexico City on Wednesday. Frankie's replacement Jed Zayner has filled in superbly for Hejduk over the last month, but this may be one of those times where you rush back the veteran. Hejduk has experience playing at altitude in Mexico City for USA vs. Mexico games, and his leadership will be a big boon to the backline. If Hejduk doesn't start, Eric Brunner and Jed Zayner together on the backline could be too much youth and inexperience South of the border.

Hejduk made the following comment to Craig Merz yesterday about his previously strained quadricep:
"Today was my first real day testing it. It felt good," he said. "The quad's not an issue anymore. It's more getting myself mentally back into it more than anything else. The physical part is there. I'm trying to get on the same page and help wherever I can whether it's starting or coming off the bench."

Emilio Renteria may also play a role by the 90th minute whistle. The new Venezuelan international signing received news that his work permit has been approved. But, the Crew have (as of Monday) not received Renteria's hard copy of the document meaning Renteria could not re-enter the U.S. from Mexico without it. According to Merz, Renteria will not travel without it. So, keep your fingers crossed Crew fans that Renteria's work permit is giftwrapped at One Black & Gold Blvd. this Tuesday morning.

Some may be asking why the rush on getting Emilio in the lineup? I think it's obvious. I think Renteria could make a difference in this game and this tournament. His long powerful shot is a weapon the Crew doesn't have as of yet in their arsenal. Further, Emilio has experience in Copa Liberatdores(The South American version of CONCACAF Champs League), where he led Caracas FC all the way to the quarterfinals of that difficult tournament. Lastly, Caracas has a little more altitude than Columbus at 900 meters compared to Columbus, OH's 276 meters. Sure, Mexico City is at an outrageous 2,240 meters but hey having someone like Renteria who has grown up at the edge of a mountain range surely can't hurt. Overall, when looking at all the games, Wednesday's game may just be the most difficult assignment the Crew faces this entire tournament, so might as well go with any little advantage you can muster.

Caracas FC's practice facility was on the edge of a mountain.

Altitude may not effect the Crew too much overall. Columbus has been victorious the last two games thay have played at altitude against the Colorado Rapids away. Winning 2-0 in July 2008 and 1-0 in July 2009 at 1,601 meters. Nevertheless, Cruz Azul is a much different monster compared to the Colorado Rapids.

Another boon for the Crew is having their MVP back for a full 90, for the first time in five weeks, ready to go. Guillermo Barros Schelotto's influence and experience in the midfield will be a huge difference maker. GBS doesn't mess around during these tournaments. As this is what the legend had to say about this tournament on Argentinian television a week ago, "I play international tournaments to win, no matter who, no matter where, no matter what." The guy has only been involved in winning 11 international tournaments; including 4 Copa Libertadores, 4 Copa Sudamericana, and 2 Intercontinental Cups. Also as you will see from the video on my post in the stories below, he scores a lot in these sort of tournaments. If Guillermo is ready to win in Mexico City, the Crew is ready to win in Mexico City.

But, overall, the Crew's biggest advantage may be that they play as a family and are all about the team first mantra.

From Craig Merz's discussion yesterday with Captain Frankie Hejduk:
"Only 11 guys can play every week but we are tight like a family here. We say before the games we're a family. You fight your hardest for the family," he said.

Hejduk said the key for the players is to trust that Warzycha and his staff are doing what's best for the team.

"Whatever decision the coach makes you respect it and move on," he said.

Warzycha said to Merz that the feelings go both ways:
"I have a lot of respect for the guys. Even if I don't play them I respect them," he said. "We have a good group of guys and they are respecting the game and respecting my decision. They don't have to agree with the decision but they have to respect it. As long as they respect it we're going to be good."

-----Guillermo Barros Schelotto------

I would drop someone from the defensive midfield and go with two forwards up front. I would go for the surprise, and bring Renteria in right away for the start. I would play Ekpo, Gaven, and Rogers because they are our best three attacking midfielders. Gaven and Rogers have no problem in assisting Carroll in defense, also Ekpo has been improved at defense. I would drop back O'Rourke from midfield to defensive line because he has more experience overall than Brunner. Brunner has done very well. But, rookie wits can become frayed easily in Mexico. I think this is the lineup that gives us the best chance. We shouldn't go out with a defensive lineup or a lineup that shows we are afraid, we should go down there all guns blazing. Because it's the only chance we have at getting a result.

Otherwise, we lose 2-0 like Puerto Rico did here.

Prediction: Crew win 2-1 off of more international tournament heroics from Guillermo Barros Schelotto with the first goal. Then either Robbie Rogers or Emilio Renteria connect with one upper 90 to allow the Crew to escape with a 2-1 win.


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