COLUMBUS, Ohio – The return of midfielder Kevin Burns from a sports hernia has been like the addition of a new player without the added cost to the Crew or a loss of a roster spot.
But Columbus have yet to find out how good Burns can be, as the player has been hampered by injuries.
“He needs to be injury-free so he can challenge other players,” Crew coach Robert Warzycha said. “How good can he be? I don’t know.”
Burns has had an exasperating career with the Crew. Selected in the fourth round of the 2007 MLS Supplemental Draft, he has appeared in only 11 MLS games, including five starts, and his 451 minutes equate to just nine full games during that time.
In 2007, at the urging of then-Crew coach Sigi Schmid, Burns signed with lower-division Rochester to get playing time and was the Rhinos’ rookie of the year.
Buoyed by that experience, the central midfielder signed with the Crew and was angling for playing time late in the 2008 preseason camp but was bothered by a sore ankle. It turned out to be an osteochondral (OcD) injury of the talus, one of the larger bones at the back part of the foot that forms the ankle joint.
Burns had some microfractures in the ankle removed and had to be on crutches for seven weeks after the surgery was performed in March of 2008. Six months elapsed before he could start running and had to wait another two months before he could sprint.
He lost the entire 2008 season and the early part of 2009 as he recovered.
“There’s two ways to handle it,” Burns said. “You can be down. If not, work a little harder. I would never call myself a survivor. I think I’m good enough to do the job – I’m pretty confident about that.
“Of course, anytime you get a couple of injuries you’re going to be frustrated. Sometimes it happens,” he added.
Burns finally made his MLS debut May 27, 2009, against the San Jose Earthquakes, and his first start came four months later.
This year Burns has technically missed only seven games because of the surgery to treat his sports hernia. He was eligible to return June 26, but had to regain his fitness and did not appear in a match until starting against Santos Laguna of Mexico on Aug. 24 in the CONCACAF Champions League.
The former University of Connecticut player made a brief appearance at the end of the Crew’s match against FC Dallas four days later, and also saw action in two games against D.C. United – he came off the bench in the 78th minute on Sept. 1 in a US Open Cup semifinal, and went the distance three days later in MLS play.
Throughout the entire process, Warzycha has maintained confidence in his player.
“He’s here because we think he can be a good player,” said the Crew coach. “The injuries have held him back every single time.”
Burns, no doubt, echoes his coach’s comments and believes he can help his team now that he’s healthy.
“I played the [Santos] game and proved I could go 90 minutes after not playing after the surgery for two months,” Burns said. “I’m happy to contribute. I always know I can.”