Crew short-handed for Whitecaps meeting

The Columbus Crew are anxious to get back to action after a sluggish performance over the weekend.

Unfortunately, they’ll be a little short-handed.

The Crew will be without three starters Wednesday night when they try to get back on track against the lowly Vancouver Whitecaps at Empire Field.

After outscoring opponents 6-1 in winning its final two games of June, Columbus (6-5-6) opened this month with a 2-0 loss at FC Dallas on Saturday. The Crew were outshot 17-8 in suffering their second defeat in seven matches (3-2-2).

"Sometimes it’s better to play only four days later because obviously we have guys who want to show that we are better than (the Dallas game)," coach Robert Warzycha told the Crew’s official website.

Midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo and defenders Andy Iro and Rich Balchan won’t have the chance for redemption.

Ekpo, who has played in all 17 games and has a goal and an assist, was handed his fifth yellow card of the season Saturday, landing him an automatic suspension.

Iro received two yellow cards, becoming the first Columbus player to be ejected in an MLS match this season.

Balchan, who has scored on his only shot of the season and has appeared in 16 games, injured his groin.

"They’re important parts of our team," captain Chad Marshall said. "We’re going to miss them, but we have a deep team. I’m sure guys will step up."

The Crew are a bit deeper thanks to the returns of defender Danny O’Rourke and midfielder Robbie Rogers.

O’Rourke played 21 minutes against FC Dallas, his first action of the year following offseason knee surgery. Rogers, who has two goals and an assist, logged 30 minutes in his first game since May 28 after spending time with the U.S. national team.

The Crew are trying for the season sweep of the Whitecaps after defeating them 2-1 at home on April 30 behind two goals from Emilio Renteria.

Renteria, second on Columbus with four scores, is nursing a left quad strain that has sidelined him for the last seven matches.

Vancouver (2-8-8), which has no more than one goal in 14 of 15 games, is coming off a couple of losses to Canadian rival Toronto FC.

After losing 1-0 at BMO Field last Wednesday in MLS play, the Whitecaps suffered a 2-1 defeat in Saturday’s Canadian Championship final. Toronto FC won the two-match final 3-2 on aggregate scoring.

"It’s about staying positive," captain Jay DeMerit said. "It’s been a long road already this season with ups and downs. Ultimately you just have to keep the right mentality."

The Whitecaps have lost back-to-back MLS matches after beating Philadelphia 1-0 on June 18, their first victory since the season opener.