Marshall on the mend in Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Missing games is tough, but injured Crew defenders Jed Zayner and Chad Marshall are starting to see the positives of being sidelined.

The pair was rehabbing leg injuries Tuesday at the Crew’s training facility in Obetz and discussed their misfortunes together after sitting out the club’s season-opening win over Toronto FC last Saturday.

“You never want to be injured, but of all the times to get injured, get it out of the way at the beginning of the season,” Zayner said. “We only have two games this month.”

With the Crew’s upcoming bye this weekend and another bye in April, the necessity for either to rush back isn’t paramount.

Marshall strained his left hamstring earlier this month while training with the team in Arizona, but could be ready for the next match April 10 at FC Dallas.

“They say hamstrings are pretty temperamental,” said Marshall, who’s never had a serious hamstring injury before. “The more time I have to get back, the better. If we’re a month into the season and I miss only two games, it’s not as bad.”

Zayner suffered a partial tear of his right medial collateral ligament during a preseason game in Arizona and is eyeing the April 24 home game vs. Real Salt Lake for his return.

But the light early schedule and a strong bench ease the anxiety for head coach Robert Warzycha, who knows there are capable replacements that will allow the injured maximum time to heal.

Andy Iro, for example, slid into Marshall’s center back spot on Saturday and handled the job as the Crew posted a 2-0 shutout win.

 “The best thing would be to have your best 11 on the field,” Warzycha said. “Chad is Defender of the Year, so he should be playing. On the other side, it’s good to have players who can step up. In Andy’s case, last week he even scored a goal. That’s good to have.”

Iro, slightly taller than the 6-4 Marshall, went to the friendly skies to head a free kick from Guillermo Barros Schelotto for the first goal of the season. Afterward, reporters surmised Iro was doing his best imitation of Marshall.

“That’s not an impression of me,” Marshall countered. “That’s what he does. He’s worked on his heading game and crossings and corners. That’s just a testament to the hard work he puts in at practice. He made a great run and a great finish.”

Despite Iro’s success in his stead, Marshall’s injury woes have implications beyond the Crew. He was coming off a left knee sprain at the end of the 2009 season and did not have a standout camp with the U.S. National Team in January, and the latest injury further diminishes his chances of being named to the World Cup roster.

“I would have liked to have stayed healthy at the end of last year going into the January camp and hopefully been sharper,” he said.

When asked of his World Cup chances, he replied: “I would probably lean toward the not making (the team). Given the injuries and stuff it’s something that I guess I’m expecting. You still hold out hope, but I won’t be too crushed if I’m not selected.”

Last season he won his second straight MLS Defender of the Year award to match the feat of Chicago’s Carlos Bocanegra (2002-03) and Robin Fraser (Los Angeles, 1999; Columbus, 2004) as the only two-time winners.

Can Marshall, at age 26 but in his seventh season, get the hat trick?

“First and foremost is the team,” he said. “If the team is doing well, the individual accolades will come.”