OBETZ, Ohio – Columbus Crew defender Shaun Francis has been frustrated by injuries all season. Now that he is healthy, however, his troubles may be far behind him, as head coach Robert Warzycha looks set to restore him to the starting left back role over incumbent Josh Gardner.
“[Gardner] did a very good job but it’s no secret that when I talked to Josh, Shaun was my first choice,” Warzycha said. “He’s probably going to be playing behind him if [Francis] performs.”
Big things were expected of the speedy Jamaican this year after unseating veteran Gino Padula at left back during the 2010 season. Francis played in 14 games last year, but a torn left hamstring at the end of the preseason delayed his first appearance to June 4 in a four-minute runout.
Two days later, Francis aggravated the hamstring while jogging. Soon after recovering from that knock, he suffered yet another injury – a groin strain in a July 26 friendly against Newcastle United.
“Even though it was a depressing moment it happened for a reason,” Francis said. “I’m not complaining. I learned a lot by just watching the team play.”
Many of the many hours that Francis spent in the training room were shared with midfielder Danny O’Rourke, who underwent knee surgery in November. O’Rourke and Francis each went 90 minutes on Sept. 14 against the Houston Dynamo, as well as against the Philadelphia Union on Sept. 17.
“He’s a great kid,” O’Rourke said. “He’s been very uplifting and very positive about his rehab. Obviously, neither one of us wanted to have the extent of the rehab like we’ve had. We’ve both put a lot of time in the workout room and in the training room to go back out there and do 90 minutes.”
And coming off their back-to-back performances, both are expected to start on Saturday against the LA Galaxy.