I caught up with Crew head coach Robert Warzycha before the Fire game today and it sounds like the roster is (nearly) set with the deadline for roster compliance tomorrow. The team is still looking at left back options, but Francis is the starter, for now. Montenegrin Nemanja Vuković is getting an extended look, but the team has passed on Lance Laing and Kasali Casal. Warzycha wants a player to compete for a starting spot.
The Crew used the 4-5-1 tonight against Chicago, but Warzycha indicated they are going to play in a 4-4-2 in most games. They have also worked on a 4-3-3 formation in camp. Any debate on where Milovan Mirosevic will play seems moot, Warzycha likes him in central midfield, able to control the game and spring forward into attack if needed. The Crew missed having an orchestrator in the final third last year. Mirosevic will play that role.
Warzych noted that Olman Vargas is a little behind the speed of MLS play due to an injury suffered in December. He didn't have a chance to work out in the offseason and is playing catchup with the rest of the team.
Two rookies have stood out in preseason. Ethan Finlay has been a spark on both wings and will make an immediate impact. Kirk Urso has had a very strong camp and has impressed with his work ethic. Both will get a lot of playing time and even push for a starting job from the sounds of it.
Urso's strong play and Danny O'Rourke's continuing recovery means that Tony Tchani is not the automatic first pick to play with Mirosevic in midfield. Even though Tchani has started the last several games, Warzycha sees considerable competition in midfield.
Warzycha confirmed Rich Balchan had surgery yesterday for his sports hernia. He also said that Ben Speas is scheduled for a doctor's visit soon and expected to have surgery for his abdominal ailment. Speas was expected to provide depth as he adjusts to MLS. This will sideline him again and push back his development.