Back from suspension, Dominic Oduro poses lineup dilemma for Columbus Crew

COLUMBUS, Ohio – After the Columbus Crew won their first match of 2014 without leading scorer Dominic Oduro, head coach Gregg Berhalter is left with the decision of whether to introduce the speedy Ghanaian back into the squad and risk disrupting the chemistry found in their 3-0 opening-day win over D.C. United.

“The guys did a great job, and right now I think the coach is trying to focus on the team,” Oduro said at the team's media day Thursday. “It's my job to make it hard for him. He knows what I can do. There's a reason why I scored [13] goals last year because of my work rate and because of what I bring to the team. I think he knows that, and I think he respects that.”

Oduro was suspended for the first match of 2014 after being shown a red card for a late kick out of frustration in the final minutes of the last match of 2013 against the New England Revolution.

Berhalter knows that Oduro is valuable, but he isn't sure how to best dispatch him.

“The team has been going good so far; it's been a good balance,” Berhalter told reporters this week. “We have to find the right way to work Dom into it. He has a big role to play with this group, and we'll see how it unfolds.”

But while Berhalter is non-committal about his chances to break into the lineup, Oduro said his coach knows exactly where he stands heading into Saturday's match against the Philadelphia Union (4:30 pm ET; MLS Live).

“I'm ready; [Berhalter] knows it,” he said. “It's up to him. If I have to start, that's fine. If I have to come off the bench, I have to be professional about it. I have to [cheer] my team on. It's all about the team winning games.”

Last year, Oduro split time between forward and winger and has done so again in the preseason. Berhalter said he tried Oduro at forward in a scrimmage against the NAIA All-Stars last week, and Oduro has been in drills with fellow striker Jairo Arrieta much of this week.

“We know Dom can play a number of positions,” Berhalter said. “We know Dom is going to be on the field helping this team. It's just a matter of where and when, those are the two questions.”

Oduro has always said that he favors playing forward, so he's happy to be in the mix both for starting forward and wing spots.

“Right now I think [forward] is where he kind of wants to play me, and I'm up for it,” Oduro said. “If that's how it's going to be, I think I'm ready for that.”

After watching the Crew opener in a bar with supporters, Oduro said he's “itching” to get back on the field one way or another.

“I'm just looking forward to playing the game,” he said. “It's been a while, and I miss it.”

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