OBETZ, Ohio – Danny O'Rourke could be returning to the Crew lineup at the perfect time.
O'Rourke resumed full training this week after aggravating his back nearly a month ago. While Crew head coach Robert Warzycha would prefer to ease his defender/midfielder back in, Frankie Hejduk’s illness may force O’Rourke into action on Saturday at Toronto FC.
“Danny is the natural fit,” Warzycha said. “More than anything, he is a little bit of a risk because he hasn’t played in so long. We don’t want him to get injured. He’s fit enough to play 90 minutes.”
Hejduk’s status for the game will be determined on Friday. But O’Rourke looks to be good to go after recovering from what Warzycha reported to be back spasms.
“The back’s fine,” O’Rourke said. “I could have played 90 minutes the past month but it wasn’t the smartest move for my career or the team.”
While he needed injections to ease the pain of his injury, he isn’t concerned about returning to the team too soon.
“The goal’s the playoffs,” he said. “Whatever it takes to be successful there, I think we’ll make the right decision.”
Warzycha usually sits Guillermo Barros Schelotto when the Crew play at BMO Field because of the artificial turf. But even now that the rug has been pulled for grass, the Argentine still might not play.
Schelotto leads the team in goals and assists with eight apiece, and leads field players in minutes with 2,375. The only league game he has missed was May 20 at New York because of a suspension.
“Maybe that would be a good idea to give him rest, because he has played so many games, to get him ready for the playoffs,” Warzycha said.
Schelotto, 37, has started and played 27 games – the same as his previous career bests in 2008 – but already has 159 more minutes than two seasons ago when he was the league’s MVP.
He has logged additional time this year in the CONCACAF Champions League and the US Open Cup, including 90 minutes in last week's final.
In 2008, the Crew were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Open Cup and did not participate in the Champions League.
Up in the Air
Warzycha has long said that the lack of direct commercial flights out of Columbus compared to bigger cities hampers the team. So he has to love the itinerary for the October 21 CCL match against Joe Public in Trinidad and Tobago.
The team will depart Tuesday at 6:10 a.m. local time. After a two-hour, 44-minute flight to Houston, the Crew have a layover of five hours and 16 minutes. The connecting flight to Port of Spain will take another five hours and 37 minutes for a total trip time of more than 13-and-a-half hours.
Their Oct. 22 return flight leaves Trinidad at 8 a.m. local time and lands in Columbus via Houston nearly 13 hours later as well.
By comparison, the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets’ chartered flight to Stockholm, Sweden, to play two games took just seven-and-a-half hours.