In Defense of Emilio Renteria

SEATTLE, WA - MAY 23: Emilio Renteria #20 of the Columbus Crew celebrates after scoring a goal against the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field on May 23, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. The Crew defeated the Sounders 2-0. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

What has happened to Emilio Renteria? Just last month, he was named MLS Player of the Week. Now, given his recent poor form, all across Crew Crew Soccer Nation there are calls for him to be benched as soon as Jairo Arrieta arrives to, well, save the day.

As far as I can tell, the Big Venezuelan is feeling the pressure. Every time he gets the ball at his feet inside the 18-yard box it's as though he knows that everyone wearing Black and Gold - players, staff, fans - are expecting him to do something great and then dance the Mambo with the corner flag.

So what ends up happening? He tries too hard and gets nothing for his trouble.

Yes, I know that he's a professional athlete and Clark Hunt is paying him to score goals. But I ask you to look in the mirror for a quick second: Have you ever felt the pressure of a situation and screwed it up? I know, damn well, that I have. He may be a pro soccer player, but he still puts his pants on the same as you and me.

But, let's look at the numbers, where we will find what separates Emilio from the rest of us. His stat line so far this year reads like so: 938 minutes played, 32 shots (9 on goal), 2 goals, 1 assist, .19 goals/90 mins, 6.3% scoring chance percentage. Renteria, I think we all can agree, isn't setting the world on fire. Smart money says he won't win the Budweiser Golden Boot this year.

But, here's the thing: he keeps taking shots. Yes, he averages 0.19 goals per 90 minutes and converts less than seven percent of his total chances, but at least he hasn't given up. He keeps running around, getting the ball and taking shots. Head Coach Robert Warzycha benches him
for a couple games? No biggie, he comes back and just keeps kicking the ball towards the net. He goes 0-fer in a game or two, so what? He keeps taking shots.

What's that thing that everyone is always saying, about missing all of the shots you don't take? No one will ever blame Emilio for not taking chances.

But let's look a little deeper at his numbers: Roughly 30% of Renteria's shots are on goal (9/32), and of his SOGs, a little more than 20% find the net (2/9). Again, he's not setting the world on fire, but I think he's doing exactly what the club pays him to do: Take shots and score goals.

So, what does Coach Warzycha do with El Toro Negro once The Savior Arrieta arrives? Bench him? Trade him? Put him out to pasture? No, I say, no. If we want to see Emilio become a real, bona fide scoring threat in this league, he needs someone to work with. Some else who can regularly score goals and take some of that pressure. Someone with international experience, and a nose for making things happen.

Someone like Jairo Arrieta.

I say that when Arrieta arrives, either this week or next, that Warzycha should make it his personal mission to turn Arrieta and Renteria into the most feared striker combo in Major League Soccer. I don't think that's a stretch of the imagination at all.

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