Crew to get help from O'Rourke, Francis

Midfielder, fullback close to returning from injury to help Crew

OBETZ, Ohio — The Columbus Crew have two trialists in camp, but the
real reinforcements could be coming soon when midfielder Danny O’Rourke
and defender Shaun Francis make their first appearances of the season.

O’Rourke (left knee surgery) and Francis (left hamstring strain) have
resumed full training but need to get match fit, with their next
opportunities likely coming Monday in a reserve match at New York.

Francis, injured during preseason, is the closest to returning to the
lineup. However, he is not expected to dress for the Crew’s game
Saturday against Chivas USA. (7:30 pm ET; Direct Kick, Matchday Live)

“I’m not sure Saturday is the best thing for him,” coach Robert Warzycha said.

Francis played 45 minutes in a reserve match on May 9 and got more
minutes in a scrimmage against the Crew’s Under-20 team last week.

“I’m not going to rush it,” Francis said.

O’Rourke had knee surgery in November and is not eligible to come off
the injured list until Columbus’ game at New York on June 4. The
additions of O’Rourke and Francis could change the dynamics of the team.

“They’re potential starters,” Warzycha said. “Danny has a lot of
experience and played for a few teams in the league. It would be nice to
have Danny on the field and the same with Shaun.”

O’Rourke’s impending return could ease the loss of midfielder Robbie
Rogers, who could miss all five games in June while away with the US
national team at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

“Danny brings quality,” Warzycha said. “There’s no question that when
he’s healthy, he’s one of the best defensive center midfielders in the
league.”

Dejan Rusmir, Kevin Burns and occasionally Emmanuel Ekpo have filled
the defensive mid spot, but using O’Rourke there might free someone such
as Ekpo to attack more aggressively for the goal-challenged Crew.

While O’Rourke has not scored in his 139 career games, he is good at possessing and distributing the ball.

Defensively, the Crew have been solid for the most part in Francis’
absence with rookie Rich Balchan filling in. However, Francis showed in
his rookie season last year that he has the pace to be a threat on the
left side, something badly needed for a team that has eight goals in 10
games.

“I’m more of an attacking person than a defender,” Francis said. “I’m
playing a role that I have to defend but still you have to think about
going forward and helping the team.”

Warzycha agrees: “I would love for the fullback to go forward, and Rich
is not that comfortable over there going forward,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nigerian midfielder Julius Ubido joined the Crew for a
tryout and will dress for Monday’s reserve match. The 26-year-old plays
for Heartland FC in the Nigerian Premier League. Defender Mike Jones
from SIU-Edwardsville is also training. He was cut by Sporting Kansas
City earlier this year.