The Crew first worked up a sweat during Wednesday’s practice and when it ended, shared some laughs. However, a brief players-only meeting after a cool-down was an indication that things are far from normal at their training facility in suburban Columbus.
Captain Chad Marshall and veteran utility man Danny O’Rourke appeared to do the majority of the talking before most of their teammates filed quickly and quietly past the media following the first open training session since Sunday’s death of rookie midfielder Kirk Urso.
“It feels good to get back out here with the guys and try to work through this thing as a team,” team midfielder Eddie Gaven told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s been hard for sure.”
The team held a short closed practice Tuesday and will train Thursday at Crew Stadium before Saturday’s match there against Toronto FC (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online). Head coach Robert Warzycha knows he faces the toughest challenge of his career in getting the team prepared for an important Eastern Conference game.
“Today and yesterday, we did talk about the game on Saturday,” Warzycha said. “I talked to some guys this morning and they said whatever happens, happens ... but we still have a game on Saturday. They are aware of that.”
No concrete evidence has been released concerning the cause of death for Urso, 22, who was found unconscious at a Columbus bar early Sunday morning and died at a hospital a short time later. A coroner’s report said he died an “apparent natural death,” but toxicology results won’t be known for up to six weeks.
The sense in conversations with several players is they think it’s too early to gauge what the team’s psyche will be like on Saturday, but that being on the field will be therapeutic.
“We want to do what he’d want us to do – that is, play the game as hard as we can and try to win the game,” Gaven said.
The organization is finalizing tributes to Urso, both for Saturday and long term, and the players have suggested that his locker at the training center remain untouched with some of his belongings for the rest of the season.
“That’s been one of the hardest parts, to walk by his locker and seeing no one there,” Gaven said. “Obviously, it’s hard this first week because it’s so new but it’s going to be there the whole year, I think.”