Crew Cuts: Superb reserves
Columbus Crew forwards Jason Garey and Steven Lenhart have spent two seasons fighting for playing time behind reigning MLS MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto and last year's team goal-scoring leader, Alejandro Moreno. With Schelotto and Moreno sidelined by injuries, Garey and Lenhart started together for the first time Saturday and made the most of their 90 minutes.
Lenhart scored in the 23rd minute and played a prominent role in Garey's goals in the 31st and 52nd minutes to lift a depleted Crew to a 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake.
The pair greeted each other with broad grins after their respective tallies. They were still all smiles after the match.
"I love playing with Steven," Garey said. "This is the first time I think we've ever played together in an actual MLS game, and I thought we did pretty well. We were a handful the whole night."
Garey and Lenhart were quick to praise each other's performances, even as they remain in competition for Coach Robert Warzycha's favor and the elusive minutes that come with it.
"If anything, it just will give him confidence to play either one of us," Lenhart said.
Warzycha took note. He said cracking the starting lineup is tough when the team is getting results, but injuries allowed Garey and Lenhart a chance to prove their mettle as starters.
"It was an opportunity for these guys to step up and show what they can do," Warzycha said. "Knowing that, for next game, I know that these guys at the same time can step on the field and make this club successful."
Despite the positive assessment, Warzycha said Lenhart has yet to reach his full potential. Lenhart did show a previously unseen flash of finesse by setting up Garey's second goal with a backheel.
"I was just feeling like I had to play Guillermo's role tonight," Lenhart joked. "If I duffed it like I would nine times out of 10, Bobby would have ripped my head off probably."
Warzycha said he likes to have the strikers as weapons to deploy late in the match, but Garey said he appreciated the chance to get into the groove of the game from the beginning of the night.
"We played comfortable tonight, and it really made a difference," Garey said.
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Toronto FC at Columbus Crew
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 25
Where: Crew Stadium, North Side