Rich Balchan is nearly ready to return to game action. He's missed the entire year with reoccurring sports hernia injury that required two rounds of surgery. The team could have used him several times this year when injuries decimated the back line as shown by his impact last year.
Balchan was the Crew's top rookie in 2011. He started 18 league games, seeing action at left back, center back, and defensive midfield before injuries derailed a promising season. He was the original answer to the Crew's left back problems before being shifted to midfield. He showed promise in one of soccer's most difficult position, the holding midfield role. He could cover ground with his speed and was in the right place more often than not.
His impact this season will certainly be muted. He's trying to come back to full fitness in a span of four games, but the Crew and Balchan can certainly look to 2013 as the left back situation is still up in the air with Nemanja Vukovic failing to secure a starting spot and Josh Williams being more suited to center back. Danny O'Rourke's continued injury issues also leave the defensive midfield spot unsettled. A healthy Rich Balchan likely has a spot in the team's game day roster.
Health is the the big if for Balchan. His many injuries have limited his development. They may have chipped away at some of his natural abilities, his speed and agility. He has the rest of the year to get back to full speed mentally and physically, next year will be the bigger test.