Crew SC | Decisions loom once Jonathan Mensah returnsThe Columbus Dispatch — Andrew Erickson The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio
April 21--Jonathan Mensah has improved since suffering a hamstring injury late in Crew SC's 3-2 win over the Portland Timbers on March 25. Whether he's healthy enough to return to games remains in question.
Coach Gregg Berhalter said Mensah, a 6-foot-2 center back and designated player, practiced for the second straight day Thursday. He ran sprints off to the side Wednesday to supplement the team's training with conditioning.
Mensah nearing game readiness creates an interesting situation for Berhalter. Rookie center back Alex Crognale, signed as a homegrown player out of Maryland in December, has been a problem for offenses in Mensah's absence, averaging 6.4 clearances, sixth-most in MLS.
In four games in which Crognale has started, opponents have scored just two goals against Crew SC. His center back partner for the last three games, Nicolai Naess, has also played well. The 24-year-old was named to MLSSoccer.com's team of the week after a 2-1 win over Toronto on Saturday.
"Again, we see (center back depth) as a positive. When I look at Josh Williams, how he's performed, Lalas (Abubakar), I think he's doing a good job in training, then Alex and Nico, together with Jonathan, we're comfortable at the center back position," Berhalter said. "We need numbers at that position, especially when we're going to play with three in the back."
Earlier this week, Naess, one of just two Crew players to play every minute of all seven games, said his chemistry with Crognale has continued to build.
"When you've played with a player for a game or two games or three games, the more games you play with each other, the better the chemistry is," Naess said. "I like to play with Alex but it's up to the coaches, and I'm ready to play with anybody."
Maloney in concussion protocol
Two days after he went down in practice with an apparent head injury, rookie fullback Connor Maloney exited the practice pitch wearing sneakers, indicating he didn't take part.
Berhalter said after the training session that Maloney is in the concussion protocol. Maloney was not on the field during the open media portion of Wednesday's practice, after which Berhalter said he was waiting to hear whether Maloney's knock to the head was a concussion or headache.
Maloney, a third-round draft pick out of Penn State, has made one appearance this season, playing the second half of the Crew's 3-1 loss at Houston last month.
Swanson shut down
Homegrown midfielder Ben Swanson, 19, of Grove City underwent surgery on his right ankle and was placed on the season-ending injury list. He was injured April 8 while playing for Crew SC's United Soccer League affiliate, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
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