The best way to describe Emilio Renteria's style of play? He's a beast.

The best way to describe Emilio Renteria's style of play? He's a beast.

More specifically, since his days growing up in Caracas, Venezuela, the Crew forward has been known as "El Venado," Spanish for "The Deer."

"It's an animal that's always running, always moving," Renteria said Tuesday during an interview translated by assistant coach Ricardo Iribarren.

Short and stout (5'9", 178 pounds) but blessed with blazing quickness, Renteria attacks like a high-speed tank. During his increasing number of minutes this season, he has been a terror for opponents, particularly the New York Red Bulls. Renteria scored against New York on May 20 to cap off a 3-1 Crew triumph and repeated the feat during Saturday's 2-0 Columbus victory, helping to extend the Crew's lead over New York atop the Eastern Conference.

Since joining the Crew last summer, Renteria, 25, has quickly become a crowd favorite. Chants of "REN-TE-RI-A!" often rain down from the Nordecke, sometimes when he's not even on the pitch.

"He's playing much better than last year," coach Robert Warzycha said. "He's using his body well."

Renteria's stint with the Crew is his first experience playing outside his home country. Warzycha said it took time for Renteria to get over the language barrier and adjust to the league's faster, more physical play. Now that he's getting the hang of it, he's becoming a force to be reckoned with, both up top and as a wide midfielder.

"The people bounce off him," Warzycha said. "He's very difficult to get the ball away from."

Like teammate Guillermo Barros Schelotto, a native of Argentina, Renteria was pleased with the calm, quiet atmosphere in Columbus in contrast to the hustle and bustle of South America - not to mention its crime problem.

"You don't have to worry about getting mugged," he said.

If Renteria were to encounter a criminal in Columbus, though, "The Deer" would probably bounce right off him.