Columbus Crew's Bernardo Anor nearing return from injury, still faces challenges to get back in XI

Bernardo Anor of the Columbus Crew

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USA Today Sports

OBETZ, Ohio – When Bernardo Anor began to feel a strain in his hamstring in July, he didn’t think much of it.

The Columbus Crew winger had dealt with similar issues before and expected to be able to rest it and return to the field. But that’s not quite what happened.

“I played two or three games with some strain in it, and we couldn’t tell exactly what it was,” Anor told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “I kept pushing through it, but I could tell that it was grabbing me throughout the games. It got to the point where I needed to step out and take care of it. I thought it was going to be something that after a couple days of rest I could get back into it.”

Instead, Anor has missed three straight matches and is still dealing with the nagging injury as the Crew prepare for Sunday’s home matchup with Chivas USA (3 pm ET; UniMas).

“We gave it a try, and it didn’t work out that way,” he said. “I kind of ended up pulling it for good, and that’s when I had to step out for these three weeks. Hopefully for this fourth one coming up I can be ready.”

In preparation for this weekend, Anor got 35 minutes of action in a midweek scrimmage with USL PRO affiliate Dayton Dutch Lions, and he says he’s seeing improvement.

“Right now, [fitness] is my main concern,” he said. “I just want to be 100-percent fit and have a shot to get back into the starting 11 and work my way up toward there.”

But even nearing recovery, Anor has a few more challenges to overcome. The first is mental.

“You do have it in your mind a little bit, that fear of, ‘Is it going to happen again?’ or ‘If I shoot, what’s going to happen?’” he said. “I’ve got to leave that out of my mind and just go for it. If the word from the trainers is to play 35 minutes, I’ve got to just give my best and do what I usually do. If it happens again, it wasn’t meant to be for now.”

The other challenge is fitting back in the lineup.

In his absence, Anor’s spot has been occupied by Justin Meram. And rather than just holding the place, Meram scored three goals and added two assists in a breakout month.

But rather than worrying about losing his starting spot, Anor is simply glad that Meram is succeeding.

“I couldn’t be more happy, to be honest,” Anor said. “In my heart, if there’s a guy who I would wish him the best, it’s Justin Meram. We’ve built a friendship for so many years already, and I’m very happy that he’s going through this moment. He deserves it.

“That’s how soccer is. Sometimes you step out, and the next guy steps in and takes full advantage of it and he does what [Meram] did. You hope that he keeps doing that. Eventually I’ll get my opportunity, and even though there’s a friendship there you always fight for getting on the field.”