OBETZ, Ohio – Columbus Crew midfielder Dilly Duka returned to practice Tuesday after missing Saturday’s match at Chicago for what coach Robert Warzycha said were “personal issues” in his native New Jersey.
“He took care of the things he had to and he’s back,” the coach said.
Duka was not made available for comment.
Warzycha told MLSsoccer.com that Duka’s absence had nothing to do with any team problems although he hinted on Friday that it might have been related to the third-year player leaving the bench after being substituted in the 57th minute of last Wednesday’s match against Chivas USA, which the Crew won at the death thanks to Justin Meram.
On Tuesday, Warzycha insisted that personal issues were at the root of his absence from the weekend game, and explained why Duka, who has missed nine games because of two separate hamstring injuries, headed straight for the locker room on Wednesday.
“He asked for the ice bath,” Warzycha said. “He said he needed to go in right away. He felt like when he’s warm he needs that. That’s also usually what we do when guys finish practice. We want them to jump right away into a cold bath. That’s what he asked for, that’s why he went to the locker room.”
Warzycha doesn’t think Duka was expressing frustration with being pulled for forward Emilio Renteria so early in the scoreless game.
“You have to ask him,” he said. “He’s probably like every player, when you take him off the field he’s a little disappointed. What can you do?”
Prior to his absence on Saturday, Duka had started 11 of the Crew's 12 matches – the win over Chivas was his sixth straight – but had been replaced by the 75th minute in the past five.
“We’re trying to change the game and put different players on the field,” Warzycha said. “That’s all I have to say. It’s not like he’s not playing well.
“Even the last game when he came off against Chivas he was doing well. He was possessing the ball but I wanted to get a player [Renteria] behind the ball. That was a tactical switch.”
One day at a time
Defender Carlos Mendes has missed a dozen games because of two hamstring strains (plus six more due to a sprained ankle) so his latest return to training Tuesday was viewed with caution.
He did a series of speed workouts with strength and conditioning coach Brook Hamilton while the team scrimmaged.
“Now it’s a matter of slowly going into it,” Mendes said. “Today was a step up. We wanted to test it out before we jumped into practice.”
He has not played since Aug. 25 and likely will not be available Saturday when the Crew host Philadelphia.
Defender/midfielder Rich Balchan – who has yet to play this season because of two sports hernia surgeries – could debut in Sunday’s reserve match vs. the Union. … Midfielder Ethan Finlay (infected lip) is also training fulltime again. … Defender Julius James said he has been called to Trinidad and Tobago’s national team for friendlies vs. French Guyana on Oct. 10 and St. Kitts four days later. He shouldn’t miss any matches for Columbus.