Josh Williams at Portland
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Crew take some time off after intense training sessions

OBETZ, Ohio – Thursday, it turns out, is a good day to take a break.

That's what the Columbus Crew needed after three intense days of training in preparation for their next match, which comes June 16 at New England.

“Guys have been joking it feels like preseason again,” midfielder Cole Grossman said.

The players were excited to have a day off following Wednesday’s full-sided scrimmage that saw several skirmishes, most notably between defender Josh Williams and midfielder Tony Tchani.

Words and shoves were exchanged but no punches were thrown and they later joked about it on Twitter.

“It shows everyone is physically and mentally worn down,” Williams’ center back partner Eric Gehrig told after practice. “It will be good for us to get away. I’m sure we’ll all be hanging out again.”

Tuesday’s practice had a series of five-vs.-five scrimmages where the sides were drawn from a hat for each game. A player was awarded 15 points for being on the winning team, five for a tie and a point for every goal his team scored.

The players at the top of the points chart split fine money that had been collected from their teammates while the low point players had kitchen cleaning duty at the training facility.

No wonder players were getting at each other the past few days.

Assistant coach Mike Lapper, handling media duties for the next week while head coach Robert Warzycha is in his native Poland to watch a pair of Euro 2012 matches, didn’t mind the players' feistiness.

“Tempers flare all the time,” Lapper told “That’s maybe one of the downfalls of having your first 11 and second team so close because there’s guys sniffing and knocking at the door who think, ‘Hey, I should be in that lineup and I’ve got to show it.’ That’s why you have that combativeness.

“We don’t have a problem with that as long as you leave it on the field and it doesn’t spill over,” he added. “We have a great locker room this year. I don’t have any qualms about it. It happens. As long as no one’s throwing blows and we’re all getting along afterwards, bygones are bygones.”

That apparently was the case.

On the mend

Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum has a low-grade MCL sprain his right knee suffered May 23 at Seattle but did participate in the scrimmages Wednesday.

“It’s no big deal,” he said. “With all the time off, there’s no reason to push it.”

On Wednesday, midfielder Dilly Duka tweaked his left hamstring, the same one that he hurt in the season opener March 10 and cost him the next six games. He’ll be evaluated later on Thursday.

Shaun Francis sprained his ankle last week in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup match but should resume training soon while fellow left back Nemanja Vukovic is nursing a sore back.

Captain Chad Marshall, out since May 4 with concussion symptoms, is running again and getting his heart rate up without complications.

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