There is three games left in the season, the Crew are on the outside looking in at the playoffs, and they face East leading Sporting Kansas City on Sunday in the biggest game of the season yet. Today was supposed to be another training day, but instead coaches and players went bowling. Warzycha explained the reasoning to Cody Sharrett of theCrew.com:
Everything that we do is based on how we can get better as a team and do what is necessary for us to win the game, team chemistry is just as important as fitness or anything else.
Yes, the daily grind can wear down even the best teams and Columbus is in the midst of a high stakes playoff race. This is a team that has to be mentally ready, so a day off can help. Even with several days off during the last international break, this is a team that is showing some signs of stress.
Recently several players have struggled with their roles. Aaron Horton, Ben Speas, Chris Birchall, Dilly Duka, and Tony Tchani have all had issues with how they were used this year and had it to bubble over. Horton and Tchani in tweets, Speas in comments through his agent, and Birchall went directly to Warzycha (and the Dispatch and MLSSoccer.com). Duka's odd ordeal, leaving the bench and then the team for an important game and now seemingly injured, has been picked apart.
Some of this is the easy availability of social media mixed with youth, like Horton who quickly deleted his negative tweets. Others, like Duka have shown a volatile side in the past when they hit a rough patch. However, the large amount of public grousing is striking as it's expected that players don't take these issues beyond the locker room or the coach's office.
It can be a tool to get back on the coach's radar, Soon after Birchall's comments to the press and promised discussions with Warzycha, he found himself back in the starting lineup. Tchani saw 21 minutes of action in Chicago after tweeting veiled disappointment of failing to get a start.
Duka on the other hand missed the game in Chicago and wasn't active against Philly with a leg injury. Horton and Speas remain with the reserves, still trying to break into the first team. Speas has moved up the depth chart to spearhead the 2nd team's offense while Horton is one of the last subs off the bench. A discouraging place for sure.
Whatever the reason for doing it, the team building better work quickly. The Crew have three games to make the playoffs and it might take even more than three wins to get there. It will take everyone working together.