Players returning give Crew new feel

Rookie Balchan next of many to recover for first-place Columbus

Rich Balchan

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The Columbus Crew are undergoing a roster touchup, but they’re not
making trades or spending money – players are just recovering from
long-term injuries. Rookie midfielder Rich Balchan could be the next
returnee if he is cleared Saturday for the Crew’s match against
Philadelphia at Crew Stadium (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).

The Indiana product has been out since suffering an adductor strain July 2 at FC Dallas, but resumed training this week.

“He looked okay,” coach Robert Warzycha said. “We limited him a little bit to what he’s doing on the field.”

Balchan has his teammates from whom to draw inspiration. Midfielder
Dilly Duka and forward Emilio Renteria returned to the lineup on
Saturday in the Crew’s 3-1 win against New England. Coming off the
bench, Renteria notched a goal while Duka recorded an assist.

“It was exciting to see because we all came in at the same time doing
rehab together,” Balchan said. “It was good to see them make a seamless
transition back onto the field and I hope I can do the same.”

There are still players out – notably midfielder Eddie Gaven and
forward Jeff Cunningham – but with the impending returns of Balchan and
midfielder Danny O’Rourke, the Crew are as healthy as they have been in
months as they carry a three-point lead in the Eastern Conference into
the final 10 matches of the season.

The Crew went shopping for reinforcements during the international
transfer window, which closed Monday, but came up empty. Still, captain
Chad Marshall said the team has a different feel now that players are
off the injured list.

“We didn’t have to go out there and bring someone in because we’ve got
enough good players and those other guys are coming back,” he said.

Warzycha noted that the re-introduction of Renteria and Duka to the lineup will help more than just in the games.

“You see what happened last week. Bringing in Dilly and Renteria, I
felt like we added two players to the team,” he said. “The biggest thing
is the competition in the practice. We now have a lot of players for
selection on Saturday so there’s competition today. They are playing
harder, running faster. That’s what makes them better.”

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Saturday’s showdown with second place Philadelphia could have a side
attraction if the Union forward Freddy Adu plays. Adu debuted with the
Union last week in his return to MLS after a four-year absence.

As a 14-year-old he went to D.C. United with the first selection in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft.

The second pick? The Crew tabbed a Stanford sophomore named Chad Marshall.

“I hadn’t even thought of that,” Marshall said of the possible matchup.
“[Adu] brings something different to their team. Hopefully we can watch
enough video this week and figure out how to deal with their attacking
players.”