COLUMBUS, Ohio – Tony Tchani has yet to debut for the Crew after arriving in a trade from Toronto FC in mid-July but the second-year midfielder hopes a long playoff run gives him the opportunity.
“My goal is to contribute to winning the MLS Cup,” he said. “Winning is a great honor if we do, but I want to contribute to it. I want to help the team this year.”
His chances have improved after returning to training this week following right knee surgery on Aug. 25, but it might be a gamble for coach Robert Warzycha to put someone on the field who has not played since July 9 for Toronto FC.
Tchani was dealt to Columbus six days later for defender Andy Iro and midfielder Leandre Griffit, but lingering knee problems kept him out of the lineup. According to Warzycha, to say that Tchani will play this season is "a stretch."
“We have to put our best players on the field," he said. "It’s not a time to gamble. We’re going to give him more time but if we think we need him he’s going to play.”
Tchani, a Generation Adidas player from the University of Virginia, was expected to team up with Emmanuel Ekpo in the center midfield, but has instead been frustrated by his inactivity.
“I think I might be ready for the playoffs,” Tchani said. “If not, next year for sure I am going to be fit, but my goal is to make it for the playoffs.”
Just nine days ago, defender Julius James was baking in the heat of his native Trinidad and Tobago while the national team played Barbados. On Thursday, it felt like 38 degrees at Crew Stadium, with steady rain and a wind whipping through the practice session.
James, per usual, had a happy face as he explained that his college days at Connecticut braced him for the conditions.
“When I was in Trinidad before I got the opportunity to go to UConn, I saw soccer on television and it was freezing,” he said. “I told myself, ‘Maybe I should prepare for that,’ and I thought UConn was a great place to be, particularly for that. I think I’ve got good preparation.”
Andrés Mendoza’s chances to win the Golden Boot as the top goal scorer in MLS took a hit when D.C. United’s Dwayne De Rosario netted his 16th on Wednesday to put him three clear of the Crew forward.
Nonetheless, it’s been a solid campaign for Mendoza in his first full MLS season despite sometimes giving the appearance he is not always a hard worker.
Defender Sebastián Miranda said that is deceiving.
“He’s not the kind of player to run a lot to follow the defender, but when the ball is in the box, that’s where he’s very good,” Miranda said. “He may not touch the ball for 10 minutes, but one ball in the box, it’s a goal. This is Andrés. Maybe many people don’t like it, but this is the way he plays.”