Tchani settles into midfield role

New midfield pairing against Colorado with O'Rourke and Viana out with injuries

Tony Tchani

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USA Today Sports

Tony Tchani made four appearances as a substitute before making his first start in the eighth Crew match on April 27, a 3-0 win against D.C. United.

After a second straight first XI assignment in last week's 1-0 defeat to New York, coach Robert Warzycha said the Cameroon midfielder needs to play with more control.

"Sometimes you go on the field and want to do too much," he told MLSsoccer.com. "He's trying very, very hard to stay on the field and play the best soccer he can. Sometimes that hurts you.

"He was trying to do more [vs. New York] than he did against D.C. He has to play smarter. He was everywhere. He lost a lot of energy trying to be in every play, be on every ball."

Yet, it's hard to blame Tchani, the former Virginia standout who helped the Cavaliers win the 2009 NCAA College Cup, from making the most of his opportunity.

After re-signing with the Crew in the offseason at the conclusion of his Generation adidas contract, he was unable to crack the lineup as Warzycha paired longtime Crew Danny O'Rourke and veteran Uruguayan newcomer Agustin Viana in the central midfield.

The two are like-minded in that they like to sit back in a defensive posture. When Viana missed the D.C. match with an injury, Tchani entered and presented a different dynamic.

"He's not afraid to get forward," goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum said of Tchani. "I like him on the ball. He's a fun player to watch. He's confident. He adds that little element where Danny can sit back a little bit and clean things up while Tony gets forward."

Unfortunately for the Crew, O'Rourke is likely to miss Saturday's home game vs. Colorado because of an ankle injury. Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha disclosed this information to local media following Thursday's training session at Crew Stadium. 

That's a disappointment for Tchani.

"Because he's a veteran in this league he's always talking to me, 'You can go forward. You're more comfortable with the ball. I'm willing to help you out and be behind you,' " Tchani said.

With Warzycha eyeing young players Kevan George, Matias Sanchez, Wil Trapp or Konrad Warzycha to take O'Rourke's spot, the onus will be on Tchani to step up in the manner befitting the second overall pick of the 2010 SuperDraft by New York. He was traded to Toronto in April 2011 then to the Crew three months later.

"We know he can play very well," Warzycha said. "With his 6-3 frame he can be dominant with his feet passing but also in the air."