By Kevin Koczwara
Last week I wrote about the Columbus Crew’s effective game plan to shut down the New England Revolution through the middle of the midfield for New England Soccer Today. A major player in that stifling midfield was former New York Red Bull and Toronto FC midfielder Tony Tchani.
Tchani was traded twice last year. First he was shipped to New York as part of a package for Dwayne De Rosario and then the Reds sent him to Columbus for Andy Iro and other players. Tchani went to the Crew and quickly found himself shelved with a knee injury, limiting his playing time — Tchani only saw time in a Crew jersey in the team’s one playoff game, he played the full 90 minutes.
This year he’s been a major part of the Crew’s re-building plans under coach Robert Warzycha. In 10 appearances (nine starts) so far, Tchani is creating a nice partnership for the future in the center of the midfield with rookie Kevan George.
Last week I was able to speak with the Cameroonian midfielder, and former third pick in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft (2010), before the game at Gillette Stadium. It was a brief conversation as Tchani and the rest of the Crew had to get ready for the game.
The Soccer Guys: Coming off the injury last year how do you feel?
Tony Tchani: I feel pretty good and I’m ready to go whenever coach needs me.
The Soccer Guys: How’s the transition been between teams? How are you feeling in Columbus now?
Tony Tchani: It’s different from New York and Toronto but hopefully I will get use to it.
The Soccer Guys: How do you feel your role as a player is developing?
Tony Tchani: I think I’m doing great so far. I think i need to work on a few things and working with three different coaches is different. Usually I just have to get t know the new coach and learn the new things.
The Soccer Guys: What is he stressing for you to get on the field more?
Tony Tchani: I think he wants me to work hard and give everything I have because he knows I can do it. When i step on the field I’m always trying to give me best and give 100 percent of the time, sometimes I don’t but I’m not doing it on purpose. I always try to give the best that I can.
For the Crew to continue on an upswing, which was halted this week in the team’s 2-1 loss to Chicago, Tchani needs to continue to grow. He needs to continue to be the linchpin and holder in the midfield, breaking up the opposition’s attacks and surging forward with the ball when in possession. He is the building block behind Milovan Mirosevic and Eddie Gaven in the Crew’s tight midfield. He needs to continue to clog the middle with George while distributing well from the midfield, something he did just “OK” against Chicago, completing 49 of 65 passes, with no through balls. Tchani did score the Crew’s loan goal, which was a bonus.
Tchani has a big role to play in a team short on goalscorers. He needs to be the man in the middle who breaks up attacks and starts attacks. He needs to show he’s grown. He needs to be the player who went third in the SuperDraft. He needs to show he can be the kind of player that teams trade for and build midfields around. The Crew need that going forward to compliment the pieces already in place.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at email@example.com.