OBETZ, Ohio – Columbus Crew coach Robert Warzycha said five weeks ago that he did not know how good Kevin Burns could be because his career had been stymied by injuries.
Recent performances by a healthy Burns could change Warzycha’s opinion. The 25-year-old UConn alum has recovered from sports-hernia surgery in June to put himself in contention for the central midfield position in front of Brian Carroll.
“You like him to push the other players,” Warzycha said of Burns. “He’s playing pretty good soccer right now so it makes us think about the lineup. He’s making a good contribution.
“It makes you think who is going to start and he is one of the candidates for that spot. It’s not only good for the club, it’s good for him,” he added.
Burns, selected in the fourth round of the 2007 MLS Supplemental Draft, started and scored his first career goal in his 23rd game through all competitions when he put the Crew ahead 1-0 in the US Open Cup final on Oct. 5, a game won by Seattle 2-1.
“Anytime you can get a goal from the midfield, it’s a bonus,” Carroll said. “It gave us a lift but, unfortunately, we weren’t able to follow through and get a second.”
Burns was supposed to be rested three days later at Chicago, but he replaced Adam Moffat at halftime of the 2-0 defeat and was the Crew’s best threat.
“He was a dangerous player when he came in,” Warzycha said.
Burns is one of the few Crew players who can put a strike from outside the penalty area on frame with pace. He nearly scored against the Fire last week with a run deep into the box before defender Bratislav Ristic cleared the ball off the goal line.
“I’m becoming more of the box-to-box player that [Warzycha] likes,” Burns said. “I’m really fit now. You need four or five games to get full match fitness.”
He knows all about returning from injury after missing all of the 2008 season after having surgery to repair micro-fractures in his ankle. The rehabilitation carried into last season when he appeared in only eight MLS matches.
“Ever since he got here, you could tell he was a great player,” midfielder Eddie Gaven said. “He had a few times when he was hurt. Now he’s fit. He looks sharp. He does a great job of holding onto the ball, which is something this team needs.”
Burns will be looking to add to his minutes in the final two MLS regular-season matches and a CONCACAF Champions League game.
He likely has moved ahead of Moffat on the depth chart but Danny O'Rourke is set to return from back problems and should be in the mix as well.
“Anytime you play more games you’re going to be a little more confident,” Burns said. “I’m actually extremely confident.”