COLUMBUS, Ohio — When midfielder Leandre Griffit’s contract was renewed for 2011, it's likely many Crew fans were surprised.
The French midfielder was signed on May 13 last year after an extended trial period, yet appeared in only three MLS games and a half-dozen non-league matches over the next five months.
At times it looked as though his offensive flair was in contrast to coach Robert’s Warzycha wishes for him to play both sides of the ball. But as the year ended, Griffit and the Crew expressed a desire to renegotiate and, in January, a new deal was reached, but not before the player took some time to think about his future.
“We talked during Christmas time and I knew before vacation I was going to be back,” Griffit said. “I had to decide and I said I am going to have a break because I did not have any vacation for two years. For me, it was a tough year, too.”
Griffit, who was with Southampton in the English Premier League from 2003-05, started 2010 in the preseason camp of the Houston Dynamo before being cut. He came to Columbus in late March and trained six weeks before being signed.
[inline_node:313849]He made his debut in a US Open Cup match on July 6, and his first MLS appearance came on July 24 against Houston, when he scored on a craftily-placed shot three minutes after entering.
WATCH: Griffit tallies on MLS debut
However, Griffit earned only 40 minutes the rest of the league season, although he did play five CONCACAF Champions League matches and had the winner against Joe Public on Sept. 14.
“Everybody knows what I did when I played,” Griffit said. “I am an experienced player. I played in the Premier League, so it was tough for me when you’re 25, 26 years old and you’re not playing like it was a lack of trust.”
Warzycha didn’t exactly give Griffit a ringing endorsement, admitting the roster expansion by six players to 30 is one reason Griffit is back.
“He is a good player,” Warzycha said. “We know what he can do. He needs to be better than the guy that’s playing the position. It’s that simple. It’s not only what he does as a player. He needs to win the competition.
“It’s not up to me anymore [if Griffit plays],” he added. “He has to step on the field and show the coaches and team he is effective. He is capable of doing that.”
Griffit is anxious for a second chance.
“This year is a different season, a new spirit and new young players,” he said. “There’s a new atmosphere. Everything is changing now. I am happy to be a part of it. I know I can score goals. I add something different from the players here. I just need to play and be fit and my game will improve.”