OBETZ, Ohio — Eric Brunner thinks he has a way to become the best defender in MLS. A warning, though: Kids, don’t try this at home.
“Get a concussion -- be a two-time defender of the year," the Crew center back told MLSsoccer.com. "That’s all I have to do.”
Brunner hasn’t lost his marbles, even though he suffered a concussion during a scrimmage against Marshall University on April 2. He was actually referring to how effectively teammate Chad Marshall has overcome a series of concussions in his career to become the league’s top defender the past two seasons.
“I think there’s better ways to go about it, but if Brunner’s determined, all the power to him,” Marshall joked.
Knowing Marshall’s story has eased Brunner’s anxiety. Marshall missed the final two months of the 2007 season because of concussion-like symptoms before having a breakout year in 2008 when the Crew won the MLS Cup.
Marshall also sat a game in April 2009 because of headaches after taking an elbow from Chivas USA’s Atiba Harris, who now plays for FC Dallas and elbowed Eddie Gaven during Saturday’s 2-2 tie.
Brunner was told to rest last week and missed Saturday’s game.
“I got hit pretty hard. I was kind of blindsided,” he said of the collision. “I didn’t really know where it came from. I just remember feeling the impact, feeling lightheaded and wondering what’s going on. The worst part is being away and not being able to train. I want to train. They wanted me to take it easy because we have the bye week. I knew I wasn’t going to play against Dallas.”
He and Marshall have been in regular contact.
“I talked to [Brunner] pretty much every day to see how he was doing and letting him know it was all right, that’s where I was,” Marshall said. “I told him to make sure you’re completely symptom-free before you come back. No one knows but you. You can say you’re feeling all right but you don’t want to hurt yourself or take another knock.”
Brunner has heeded the advice.
“I’m taking it one day at a time and keeping a positive outlook,” Brunner said. “You don’t want to mess with stuff in your head. Chad’s had [concussions] and look how he came back.”
Coach Robert Warzycha thinks Brunner will be ready when the Crew host Real Salt Lake on April 24. Although Warzycha would prefer not having a second open weekend this month it has worked to the team’s advantage.
“We have a couple of guys nursing injuries,” he said. “If we had a game on Saturday they would probably push themselves, but they don’t have to. It’s actually helping us this time.”
Midfielder Robbie Rogers is recovering from a left ankle sprain and forward Steven Lenhart had tightness in his legs but was full go at training Tuesday. Defender Jed Zayner (knee) has been out since the preseason but is practicing again although rookie backliner Shaun Francis (ankle) is not ready to resume workouts.
“We’ll be almost 100 percent for Salt Lake,” Warzycha said.
That includes Gaven. He had to leave the game Saturday with a cut lip that wouldn’t stop bleeding after taking a shot from Harris.
While Warzycha was critical of Harris for injuring a Crew member for the third time in little more than a year, Gaven was more upset by a non-call on the play.
“I thought it should have been at least a foul, but they didn’t call anything," Gaven said. "Plus I had blood coming out of my lip. I wasn’t too happy.”
He didn’t feel the elbow was intentional.
“I don’t think he was trying to do it. It’s just the way he plays the game,” Gaven said. “I guess I have to be more careful, but I’m also trying to play hard. It’s one of those things that happens on the field. You have to deal with it.”