After serving as a rotational player in his first two seasons with the Crew, Tony Tchani is now playing a major role in the Black & Gold's early success in 2014 as a force in the Columbus midfield.
WIth the fresh perspective of first-year Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter, Tchani knew he'd have his chance to be a regular starter in 2014. However, it was no easy task as the Cameroonian-born midfielder fought through a preseason injury to earn a spot in Berhalter's starting XI.
"Tony had a little bit of an injury in the beginning of the season and he just kept fighting, kept working through it," Berhalter said of the midfielder. "He's been doing great. "
Added Tchani: "I always try to work hard every day to prove to the new coach that I deserve to be [in the starting lineup]. It wasn't easy. In the offseason I had an injury, but now it's fine. I got lucky that I got to play a few preseason games to show the coaching staff that I deserve to be out there."
Paired with Wil Trapp centrally, Tchani has helped the Crew midfield become one of MLS's best in keeping possession. The key, Tchani says, is the understanding he has with his running mate.
"We're playing so well because Wil is a guy that likes to sit and I'm like a box-to-box guy," he said. "I like being next to Wil when we're playing defense. When we're on offense, I'm a little bit higher. It's worked pretty well so far. "
Tchani's play on the field has resulted in-part thanks to the confidence Berhalter has instilled in him. Hailed as a "players' coach" when he was hired in November, Berhalter has found a way to get the most of each player in his squad.
"He's a coach that is always coming in and talking to the guys," Tchani said of his coach. "Not only the starters, but also the guys that may not play or the guys on the bench. He always talks to the guys and makes them comfortable. He makes the guys feel like they all have a chance. If someone else is not playing, it's their turn to step up and do the same job."
Even Tchani's teammates have taken notice of his increased role and the leadership that has come of it.
"He's matured as a player," Josh Williams complimented Tchani. "That's something I think Gregg had something to do with, he had a big part of it: just staying focused for 90 minutes, just always being there picking up his teammates. In the center of the park, you have to be a leader of some sort. He's not much of a vocal kind of guy. He just let's his play do the talking.
"He's been more of a leader, a field general."
Matt Lampson teamed up with San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Sam Cronin Sunday afternoon to give two San Jose area families a memorable trip to Buck Shaw Stadium.
Cherry Aslorona and Maria Naranjo were honored as LLS Heroes watched the match and then made their way to the field for the final minutes before meeting with both Cronin and Lampson post-match.
Looking to continue the Hero program that Lampson started during the 2013 season, the goalkeeper will be working with LLS to invite a child and their family to every home and away match during the 2014 season.
The Crew remain near the top of this week's Power Rankings following its 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes. The Black & Gold's highest mark is on Sports Illustrated's Planet Fútbol list, coming in at the number two spot behind Real Salt Lake. See the full rankings below.
MLSsoccer.com: 5 (4)
ESPNFC: 6 (5)
Steve Clark's diving save against Chris Wondolowski is nominated for MLS Save of the Week honors. Clark is up against Chivas USA's Dan Kennedy, LA's Jaime Penedo, FC Dallas' Chris Seitz and D.C. United's Andrew Dykstra for the top save of Week Six.
Voting runs until 11:59 p.m. PT on Thursday.
For his performance against the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday, Federico Higuaín was named to MLSsoccer.com's Team of the Week for Week Six. With four goals and six assists already this season, Higuaín has earned Team of the Week honors three times through five matches in 2014.
Federico Higuaín's tally against the San Jose Earthquakes is nominated for AT&T Goal of the Week for Week Six of the MLS season. Higuaín finished off a beautiful build-up out of the back that culminated in a cross from the left flank to an open Higuaín by Waylon Francis.
The Argentine is up against Seattle's Clint Dempsey, LA's Robbie Keane, Portland's Will Johnson and Philadelphia's Andrew Wenger for this week's honor.
Voting runs until 11:59 p.m. PT on Thursday.
Dayton Dutch Lions FC opened up its 2014 home slate on Friday night with a 1-1 draw against the Rochester Rhinos, thanks to a stoppage-time equalizer from Joe Broekhuizen. Crew loanees Kevan George and Aaron Schoenfeld played all 90 minutes, and Matt Walker played 75 minutes in the draw to help the Dutch Lions earn a point.
Dayton continues play next week when it travels to Pennsylvania to play the Harrisburg City Islanders.
Photo credit: Jeremi Blurton/DaytonDutchLionsFC.com
The last three meetings between Columbus and San Jose have resulted in a point for each club. After a 0-0 draw in 2011, the clubs played to a pair of 1-1 matches in 2012 and 2013, respectively. The last Crew victory against San Jose was August 8, 2009 in a match in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. The two teams began meeting just once a season following the schedule adjustment ahead of the 2012 season. In both 2000 and 2002, the two teams met four times in the regular-season.
Crew Vice Captain Wil Trapp has now played the same number of games in his proessional career as the number on the back of his jersey: 20. Since making his debut on July 7, 2013 against Portland, Trapp has started every regular-season game for the Crew. The midfielder, who turned 21 this year, has two career assists, including the game-winning helper on Bernardo Anor’s second goal in the 2-1 win over Philadelphia on March 22.
Midfielder Tony Tchani enters this weekend on 2,999 regular-season minutes in his Crew career since his first season with the Black & Gold in 2012. Since 2010, he has played 90 regular season games across time with New York and Toronto FC. Of the 90 appearances and 5,753 minutes, 48 appearances have come with the Crew as the midfielder has started in each of the Crew’s first four matches of 2014.