Arrieta returns to Crew, hungry for wins
By Andrew KingFOX Sports Ohio
With four losses in their last five matches, including last weekend's crushing stoppage time loss to visiting New England Revolution, the Columbus Crew have hit a rough patch in a season that began with high expectations.
In the stretch, the team has mustered only one goal per game from a squad that was expected to have more than enough offensive firepower. For the season, the team has only scored 23 goals in their first 20 matches.
Head Coach Robert Warzycha noted after the loss to New England that the team was “definitely missing” Jairo Arrieta, who has been on international duty with Costa Rica, and Eddie Gaven, the stalwart midfielder who suffered a torn ACL earlier in the season. The two scored 18 goals last season, and Warzycha attributes at least some of the team's offensive ineptitude to their absence.
This week, the team saw the return of Arrieta, who joined his teammates on the field for training on Tuesday, where he seemed hungry to earn his team MLS victories.
“I'm happy to be back with the team, and I'm going to give my 100 percent and work hard for the rest of the games,” the forward said. “I'm so happy to be back and be able to help the team.”
With injuries to Gaven, forward Aaron Schoenfeld, and several others throughout the squad, the match day team has been shuffled multiple times throughout the summer, and Arrieta saw time on the left wing in his last match with the team. Though he is a more direct striker by nature, he says he feels just fine playing wherever he needs to.
“I'm very comfortable with the [wide] position,” he said. “I've played like that for Costa Rica, and I've played in the position for [the Crew]. I'm confident.”
Arrieta returns to a team that is in desperate need of a stretch of victories, and Warzycha says that Arrieta's return can have an impact on the rest of the players as well.
“I think it's huge. His work rate shows that he belongs on the field, and I think it's contagious,” he said. “If he's going to work hard, then people around him are going to work harder.”
Six points back of fourth place Houston (who also has a game in hand), the team will need an incredible finish to the season to vault into the playoffs, and Arrieta is not shying away from the lofty goal, but says he can't let himself feel added pressure to score goals.
“I don't feel any pressure. The moment a striker feels the pressure, it's like the goal closes for him,” he said. “I feel confident in what I have, and I'm focused on getting the best results for the team. We're just looking for the win; if the goals come from me or from any other striker, they're welcome. We need to be focused...we need to win four or five in a row to get back on track.”
Warzycha has no qualms about expressing the importance of Arrieta in the team, either. When asked if he thinks that the Costa Rican can provide the spark the team needs to turn around the season, Warzycha rephrased the question himself.
“Are you asking me if he can be a savior? Yes, he can be,” Warzycha said, smiling. “If he's going to start scoring, I think he can score a bunch.”
Arrieta welcomed the news of his coach's confidence with a smile, and seemed surprised at Warzycha's level of confidence in him.
“I feel so humble, I'm so grateful for that because he trusts my skills,” he said. “I'm going to give him 100 percent so we can turn things around. Now we've just got to be focused on the Toronto game.”
The Crew will travel to Toronto Saturday to try and replicate their early-season win at BMO Field in the season's second installment of the Trillium Cup.