Tchani finding his fit in central midfield for Columbus

Tony Tchani

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OBETZ, Ohio – No longer hindered by boundaries, midfielder Tony Tchani has finally found comfort in the middle of the pitch, much to the benefit of the Columbus Crew.

Since the third-year player from Cameroon was moved from the flank to the center midfield spot in late May, his game has blossomed. He carries a two-game goal streak into Sunday’s match at Montreal.

“In the middle I can move left, right,” he said. “When I play on the right or the left, I’m stuck on one side. I don’t really like that. In the middle I can make runs from behind. I can go get the ball and move side to side.”

GOAL: Tchani finishes inside the near post

Tchani started the first match of the season March 10 but didn’t see the field for the next four games. He’s been in the first XI ever since, save for one match, but did not play centrally until replacing the injured Milovan Mirosevic vs. Chicago on May 26.

Tchani’s first goal with the Crew since being acquired from Toronto FC on July 15 of last season came four weeks later at Chicago. He added another Saturday against Real Salt Lake.

“We knew Tony was a good player,” midfielder Dilly Duka said. “Once you score, you have that goal scoring touch and you can keep going. Right now he’s on his game. I’m happy for him. He’s all smiles now.”

Assistant coach Mike Lapper used similar words to describe how Tchani is finally fitting in. It was a long haul, especially since he played only one match for the side in 2011 – a playoff loss to Colorado – because of knee surgery in August.

“He’s healthy now,” Lapper said. “He’s found his form with the team not only on the field but off the field. He’s gotten more comfortable. More of his personality is coming out and he’s expressing his joy on the field.”

Tchani agreed.

“If I don’t hang out with my teammates, I don’t know them very well,” he said. “How am I going to know them on the field? We need to have that friendship on the field.”

Taking it slow

Duka has returned to training after his second left hamstring strain of the season cost him the past three matches. He previously missed six games following an injury in the opener. That’s why the midfielder may not be available for the Montreal match.

“I’m taking everything slow,” he said. “I’m just taking it day by day. It’s frustrating.”

DP search continues

Technical director Brian Bliss told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday said there is nothing to report in the talks to sign a Designated Player. The team has made an offer to a European forward but discussions continue with others as well.

Bliss added that there they are looking at players in South America and one candidate in Asia.

“I’m always optimistic,” he said. “You have to be. We want to be able to get somebody in here.”