Preseason camp a wake-up call for Crew rookies

Photo courtesy of the Columbus Crew

LEWIS CENTER, Ohio – Training camp is only two days old, but it’s never too early for the Columbus Crew's veterans to administer advice to the rookies about preparing for the many, many months ahead.

That’s because it’s common for players in their first year out of college to get off to vigorous starts before their performances begin to suffer during the longer and more strenuous MLS season.

“With camp starting now, by the time we get to March and our first month of games, that’s almost a whole college season for some teams,” said Ethan Finlay, the Crew’s first-round 2012 SuperDraft pick from Creighton. “It’s different at this level. It’s something you have to pace yourself for.”

Coach Robert Warzycha said the staff keeps an eye on the young players for mental and physical fatigue.

“Sometimes they don’t understand that we are trying to save them and make sure the season goes smooth because if they overdo it, they get injured,” he said. “It’s tough for every single college player. We can monitor their work but obviously it’s up to them how they’re going to do and how they are going to take it.”

Midfielder Kirk Urso, a rookie from North Carolina, has discussed the situation with many of his former college teammates that turned pro and is hoping to avoid problems they’ve encountered.

“They say you hit a wall around June or July,” he said. “The college season is four or five months. This is eight, 10 months. I know I have to take care of my body, get my rest. Off the field stuff is going to matter more in this league than college. I’ll adjust.”

Veteran midfielder Danny O’Rourke can relate to how the newcomers feel.

As a San Jose rookie in 2005 he was doing fine until the midpoint of the season.

“I remember it was a game at [The Home Depot Center], and I hit a wall,” O’Rourke said. “It was halftime and I was talking to [coach] Dom Kinnear: ‘I don’t know what it is, but mentally I’m drained.’”

Fourth-year pro Tommy Heinemann said the key for the rookies is to focus on their job.

“It’s maintaining that high level of consistency in practice every day,” he said. “It’s a learning process, but as a pro, it’s something you have to do. It’s just as much mental as physical.”

While O’Rourke had to endure a tough stretch with the Earthquakes years ago, he’s glad he went through it.

“I was fortunate enough to gain some perspective and be able to realize it’s a marathon and you learn to treat your body right,” he said. “You’ve got to get away from soccer when you’re off the field. Hopefully, we can pass on some of those life lessons to the younger guys.”