Chris Birchall

O'Rourke's yellow card accumulation leaves competition in central midfield

Crew midfielder Danny O'Rourke picked up his fifth yellow card of the season in the 61st minute of Saturday's win over the Philadelphia Union, leaving Head Coach Robert Warzycha with a dilemma heading into the Black & Gold's next matchup against Eastern Conference leader Sporting Kansas City on Sunday.

Warzycha has options in replacing O'Rourke as Chris Birchall, Cole Grossman, Tony Tchani, and Kevan George who have all filled in and performed well in the Crew's holding midfield role at various points in the season. Warzycha views O'Rourke's void as an open competition in training this week.

"The competition is good," Warzycha said after Tuesday's training session in Obetz. "I think players get better because of competition during practice."

"Danny is not available for this game and we have some options," the Crew skipper continued. "We can keep Chris on the right and have Cole, Tony [Tchani], Kevan, or even Eric Gehrig to play that position. Or we can slide Birchall over and put someone else on the right side."

"We know certain players are going to be fighting for that center midfield spot, we've got three or four decent players as well who could fill the void," Chris Birchall added. "It's up to Bobby and the way he feels and how he wants to play: whether he wants a more defensive guy or he wants to push more attacking. I don't know, we'll find that out later in the week. No matter who he plays in there will do a good job."

Birchall prefers to play centrally, but says the decision on Sunday will come down to Warzycha's tactical strategy.

"I prefer to play [in central midfield]. Bobby knows I prefer to play there, but it doesn't mean I'm going to play there. He could easily keep me on the right," Birchall explained. "He could bring anyone in there. I'll be happy if he puts me in there and puts someone else on the right, or vice versa. As long as i'm playing in the team, to be honest. We'll see later in the week what he does."

On the other hand, Grossman is playing down the competition in training and focusing on self-improvement in training. Sunday could be his first start since August 19 in Houston.

"It's not even on my mind," Grossman said. "I'm just trying to work hard everyday, trying to get better every day."

With the match against Kansas City coming on Sunday, Warzycha will have an extra day to evaluate the competition.

"We're going to play tomorrow and the day after tomorrow to see what the best combination is for Sunday," Warzycha finished.