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Sports News of Thursday, 27 April 2017

Source: Ghana Soccernet

Columbus Crew star Jonathan Mensah eager to return after month-long hamstring injury

It has been a month and a day since Jonathan Mensah last played in an MLS game, and in the days leading up to what could be his return from a hamstring injury Saturday night against New York City FC, he admits the start to his MLS career ''wasn’t that easy.''

Acquired in early January as Crew SC’s second designated player, the 26-year-old center back made his debut on March 4 in an opening day game against the Chicago Fire.

Entering Week 9, it remains his only full MLS game, though he came close in two other games.

Mensah was shown a red card in the 87th minute of the Crew's 3-1 loss to Houston the following week, prompting a one-game suspension.

He returned to the starting lineup at home against the Portland Timbers on March 25, but left in the 73rd minute after suffering a hamstring injury that forced him to miss the next four games as rookie Alex Crognale filled in.

Mensah said the hamstring injury was the second of his career, the first coming in 2013, when he played for Evian in France.

Crew coach Gregg Berhalter said ''hamstrings are tricky'' a couple weeks ago in regard to Mensah’s extended absence, and it has been a somewhat slow road back that finally picked up in pace last week.

''Last week we did some like full-speed tests and I felt pretty good. The tests showed that I’m very good,'' Mensah said.

''I started collectively with the team last week so this week (I continued) full training with the team, and it’s good. We’ll just take it day by day and see how it goes.''

The return to competition with his teammates is a treat, Mensah said, because ''it’s very frustrating watching your boys.''

''You are the only one that is feeling the pain. I’m sure your team will be feeling it for you, but not in the same way that I am feeling,'' Mensah said.

''You’re happy the team is doing well, but you’re not happy that you’re not doing what you love most. So I’m glad to be back now.''

Berhalter called the 6-feet-2 Mensah, a veteran of two World Cups with Ghana’s national team, a “dominant central defender'' on the day he was acquired.

The hamstring injury prevented Mensah from showing it to fans over an extended period of time, but Berhalter said internally he was pleased with what he saw.

''I think he showed the coaching staff how valuable he can be. I had a lot of conversations with him and for him it’s about the team winning,'' Berhalter said.

''He’s not an egotistical player. He’s a team player, he’s been great when he’s been injured in terms of encouraging the team and he wants the team to be successful and that’s what you want from your designated players.''

Mensah's return to consistent team training coincides with the team desperately needing his services.

Crognale (right ankle) did not participate in team drills during the open portion of Tuesday and Wednesday practice after exiting in the 39th minute of Saturday’s game.

And, if Mensah is given the green light to play Saturday night against NYCFC, David Villa, arguably the league’s top striker, awaits.

''Health-wise, I’m very good now,'' Mensah said. ''I’m just happy to join my colleagues on the field.''

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