LEWIS CENTER, Ohio – A surprise appearance at Tuesday’s practice by unsigned forward Jeff Cunningham may have changed the outlook for him rejoining the club.
Cunningham, who needs one goal to tie out-of-contract Jaime Moreno for the MLS career goals lead (133), arrived unannounced at the SuperKick indoor training facility north of Columbus and jogged around the field as the team practiced.
Later, the 34-year-old forward – whose rights were acquired from FC Dallas in the MLS Re-Entry Draft on Dec. 15 – met briefly with Crew technical director Brian Bliss to discuss a new deal.
“I’m optimistic something will get done before we leave for Phoenix based on, a) Jeff showing up here unannounced, and b) the conversation we had for five minutes,” Bliss said.
The Crew head to Arizona on Saturday to train for three weeks.
“He didn’t seem to think we’re not getting it done or he didn’t like the deal,” Bliss said. “I’m guessing what was offered to him 12 days ago is the same deal.”
[inline_node:325032]Cunningham, who scored 62 goals for the Crew from 1998 to 2004, said he is eager to move the negotiations ahead.
“I hope they see that I took the initiative to come Columbus,” he said.
Cunningham was issued a Crew practice uniform with the number 33 and did laps while the team worked out. Afterward, he chatted with several of the players.
However, Bliss said the veteran striker won’t be allowed to participate unless a deal is completed.
“We can’t let him train because he hasn’t signed,” said Bliss. “Running around the field or going on the treadmill at the health club is one thing, but going out there and battling with the guys, we’re not going to allow that.”
KEEPING WATCH – Andy Gruenebaum has not been cleared to practice, leaving the team without its two returning goalkeepers.
Gruenebaum is experiencing pain in the right hip that he had surgery on September 2009. He said tightness and pressure on the joints are causing his hip to lock. An MRI was negative and he will receive a shot in the area that could allow him to train.
William Hesmer separated his right shoulder in the last regular-season game on Oct. 24. He is doing agility and ball handling drills and hopes to be cleared for contact in the next 10 days to two weeks.
OF NOTE – Indianapolis Colts punter and former soccer player Pat McAfee practiced Tuesday. … Argentine midfielder Neri Bandiera went to SuperKick straight from the airport, suitcase in hand. He did not train but will make his debut Wednesday.