Host of injured Crew players slowly making way back

OBETZ, Ohio — Just four days after veteran midfielder Eddie Gaven had to leave the Crew’s 2-0 loss to Colorado with an Achilles injury, Columbus finally got some good news on the injury front. Second-year midfielder Dilly Duka returned to full training Tuesday for the first time since spraining his right ankle June 4.

“It’s like preseason all over again,” the attacker said. “You don’t sit out two months and come back in. It’s going to take time.”

Duka did find one benefit from having not been through the rigors of practices and games the past eight weeks:

“My muscles aren’t sore,” he said. “Today I felt fresh.”

Duka is among several players on the long injury list that could be in the mix for Saturday’s home game against New England.

“He needs to get game fit but he looks good,” coach Robert Warzycha said. “We’ll see after a few more days.”

Here is an alphabetical rundown of the other injured players:

Rich Balchan (groin): The rookie defender was injured July 2 at FC Dallas but might be available for Saturday’s home match vs. New England. Warzycha feels if Balchan and Duka are cleared, they are athletic enough to go 90 minutes if necessary.

Jeff Cunningham (right knee inflammation): Still needing one goal to become the MLS career scoring leader, the veteran forward may get a cortisone injection that could keep him out of practice the rest of the week and possibly off the lineup card a second straight match.

Shaun Francis (hamstring): Upon recovering from a February groin injury, the left back suffered a hamstring strain in his only match on June 4, then reinjured his groin and is not expected back any time soon.

“Even if he said he is ready now, he has to get fit to play,” Warzycha said.

Gaven (right ankle contusion): The midfielder was kicked on the outside of his leg Friday at Colorado and suffered a bruise on a nerve ending. He is doubtful this week.

“Knowing Eddie, he’ll want to play on Saturday but we have to make the decision for him,” Warzycha said.

Danny O’Rourke (left knee inflammation): He came back from offseason knee surgery to play 21 minutes on July 2 but has been working on fitness since. The defender/midfielder returned to full team training Tuesday and Warzycha is unsure if he will be on the bench Saturday.

Emilio Rentería (left quad strain): The forward has missed the past two games and 13 overall due to a variety of leg muscle injuries and Warzycha said he questionable for the next match.

Alex Riggs (oblique strain): The third-string goalkeeper will rejoin training next week.

Tony Tchani (right knee inflammation): Acquired from Toronto FC on July 14, he has yet to play and Warzycha said the midfielder may undergo arthroscopic surgery soon.

“If that’s the case it’s going to take some time,” the coach said. “This is a little bit of a setback.”

Yet he said the Crew would make the same trade again because of the 22-year-old’s upside.

“He is going to be a very good player for the future,” Warzycha said.