Towards the end of a long season, the wear and tear starts to set in. The monotony of the same thing day after day grinds down all but the sharpest. That's certainly been true for me lately and it appears that it's the same for the Crew.
The injury list has been long lately. Andy Gruenebaum, Danny O'Rourke, Josh Williams, Federico Higuain, Dominic Oduro, and Tony Tchani have all shown up on the injury list or missed time recently.
Gruenebaum and O'Rourke's have been sidelined for long stretches and Williams is still working back after his second concussion of the season. They've obviously been held out, but it also appears interim head coach Brian Bliss is prone to give players suffering niggling injuries the day off.
Higuain, Oduro, and Tchani have been held out of practice or given the day off in recent weeks, but have come back to play that same week. Bliss and the rest of the technical and medical staff must now closely manage the fragile balance between sharpness and health.
A suddenly revived Tchani didn't practice on Wednesday as he picked up a torso injury according to Bliss in the Dispatch. Oduro was held out on Thursday, perhaps just to rest. Neither player is on the official MLS injury list and will likely play on Sunday against Dallas.
On the other side, Bliss also has some players that are playing longer seasons than they ever have. Wil Trapp has been playing for the U.S. youth national team and the Crew since January. Chad Barson's seasons at Akron weren't as long as the 34 game MLS season. Both have been key cogs in the Crew's late success and will have to stay sharp as the push to the playoffs continue.
Bliss has coaxed some very good performances out of some out of favor players. Some of that may come down to knowing when to push players or ease up. This late in the season, Bliss is getting those decisions right.