Columbus resume training, feel focused and reenergized

Hejduk, O'Rourke expected to rejoin team before season restarts

OBETZ, Ohio -- There was a buzz at the Crew’s training session Monday, but it had nothing to do with the team’s renewed spirit following an extended break.

Forward Steven Lenhart returned from California minus his famous golden afro that had morphed into a tangled mess by the time the Crew last played on June 5.

“It was gumming me up a little bit. It feels good,” he said of his close-cropped look.

He went to the shears two years ago in a similar fashion after scoring his first goal against Los Angeles in the middle of his rookie season.

This time his friend, Keith Holmes, and Lenhart’s brother, Daniel, did the cutting.

“I feel sleek, agile. I feel I have better dance moves now,” Lenhart joked.

He said he’s not trying to change his luck —he only has one goal— along with his hairstyle, but it might help.

“It was too high maintenance,” midfielder Robbie Rogers said. “It was out of control in games. He was always trying to fix it. He’s over it. He looks sharp [and] he looks younger, maybe 15.”

Lenhart’s new look was symbolic of the fresh start the Crew hopes to achieve by the time it takes to the field against D.C. United on June 26.

The Crew is bothered by the three-game winless streak it carried into the World Cup break.

“We set a high standard for ourselves [going] undefeated for so long then, in the last three games, take two losses and a tie,” defender Frankie Hejduk said. “It was a couple of mistakes. We’re not down. We know what we’re capable of.

“We’re going to come back after the break ready to go,” he added. “It’s a perfect opportunity to get reenergized and make sure everyone’s totally fit and healthy and get ready for the second part of the season.”

The Crew started 6-0-2 on the season before losing 2-0 at home to Los Angeles, tying 2-2 at San Jose and dropping a 1-0 decision at Colorado. The Crew and New York are tied for first in the Eastern Conference.

“I thought the attitude was great today,” Rogers said after practice. “Everyone seemed really happy and energized with a new outlook. We got to get away from Columbus and each other to see our family and friends and regroup and refocus. It’s positive for us.”

While the players scattered around the country, coach Robert Warzycha and his staff studied videos. He was not pleased that in the last two matches the Crew conceded late goals off set pieces.

“We don’t have to change much. The one thing is we have to have a good mixture on the field at the end of the game,” he said. “If you remember, at the beginning of the season we were scoring late. Now we’re allowing the goals late. That goes in circles.”

The team will get a boost with the expected return of injured defenders Frankie Hejduk (hamstring) and Danny O’Rourke (quadriceps). Their absences were noticeable on the recent trip, but both trained on Monday.

“There’s no rush to go crazy,” Hejduk said. “We still have two weeks before we play. I ran today and felt good so we’ll take it day-to-day. It’s a great time to get more recovery time.”

The extra time before the D.C. United match will also give newcomer Leandre Griffit a chance to win a spot in the midfield. The creative French player was signed May 13 but has yet to appear in a match as he worked on getting fit. That’s no longer an excuse.

“Sooner or later he will get on the field,” Warzycha said. “It’s up to him. It’s not up to me. If he wins the battle against Adam Moffat or BC (Brian Carroll) and Duncan (Oughton), I’m going to put him on the field. He has to be better to get on the field.”

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