Photo by ISIphotos.com
By AVI CREDITOR
The Columbus Crew will step on the pitch Tuesday night to play a meaningful game for the first time in months.
That's hardly the squad's biggest obstacle to overcome, though, when the Major League Soccer side hosts Toluca in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matchup (8 p.m. EST, Fox Soccer Channel/Galavision).
The Crew will be without four key players and meets a Mexican squad that finished first in Group C and is in the middle of its regular season.
Re-signed playmaker Guillermo Barros Schelotto and veteran defender Frankie Hejduk will be serving one-game suspensions for accumulations of yellow cards during the group stage, and defenders Chad Marshall (hamstring) and Jed Zayner (knee) will miss the match because of lingering injuries.
Those that are healthy are hardly 90-minutes fit, giving manager Robert Warzycha a tall task if he is to keep MLS' last remaining team in the competition.
Wingers Robbie Rogers and Eddie Gaven, fresh off their appearances with the U.S. men's national team against El Salvador, will be looked upon to lead the attack for the Crew, who finished in second behind Cruz Azul in Group B.
Danny O'Rourke, Eric Brunner, Gino Padula and Andy Iro are expected to line up in front of keeper William Hesmer.
Toluca will be without defender Edgar Duenas, who will be serving a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation. Striker Raul Nava led the team in scoring during the group stage with three goals.
DYNAMO INK ACADEMY PRODUCT
The Houston Dynamo have signed 18-year-old academy product Francisco Navas, making him the second academy player to sign with the team. Goalkeeper Tyler Deric is the other.
Navas, a dynamic midfielder, is of Colombian descent, although he was born in Houston. He was raised in Colombia and played in the Deportivo Cali youth system before joining the Dynamo academy in 2007. His successful trial with the team this winter resulted in a professional contract.
RAPIDS SIGN JOYCE
Ian Joyce, an American goalkeeper who has been in England's lower divisions since 2007, has returned to the United States after signing with MLS to play with the Colorado Rapids.
Joyce, a 24-year-old New Jersey native, will back up established starter Matt Pickens. Most recently with Southend United, the 6-foot-3 Joyce played college soccer at Seton Hall.
CHIRGADZE UNDERGOES SURGERY
New York Red Bulls academy product Giorgi Chirgadze will be out for the foreseeable future after undergoing hip surgery to repair a torn labrum.
Chirgadze, 19, is expected to miss the next four or five months while recovering.
What do you think of the Crew's chances? Like the Navas and Joyce signings?
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