Wil Trapp's former coach was in town, and the rookie Crew midfielder just so happened to be making the first start of his professional career. As Trapp got ready on a warm July evening, he was given some advice by one of the team's most-tenured players: veteran Danny O'Rourke, also a Columbus-area native.
"Probably my most poignant memory was my first game, against Portland," Trapp said while the Crew was still practicing. "He pulled me aside and was just encouraging me and settling my nerves a little bit, which was great to see, especially a guy who has been there and done that. It was awesome and it helped me a lot, for sure."
Wil Trapp’s former coach was in town, and the rookie Crew midfielder just so happened to be making the first start of his professional career. As Trapp got ready on a warm July evening, he was given some advice by one of the team’s most-tenured players: veteran Danny O’Rourke, also a Columbus-area native.
“Probably my most poignant memory was my first game, against Portland,” Trapp said while the Crew was still practicing. “He pulled me aside and was just encouraging me and settling my nerves a little bit, which was great to see, especially a guy who has been there and done that. It was awesome and it helped me a lot, for sure.”
The two would pair in as defensive midfielders, and from that point on, Trapp was a fixture in the Crew’s starting lineup. Unfortunately for O’Rourke, however, he would make only six more starts in the final 16 games as he battled a groin injury, back problems and served a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation.
In his ninth season in Major League Soccer, O’Rourke made his most appearances since 2009 (22). But like most players, he faces an uncertain future with his current club as new coach Gregg Berhalter must decide whether O’Rourke fits with his plans.
Speaking before Berhalter was hired, O’Rourke said he hopes to be back with the Crew next year for an eighth season.
“This is the place,” he said. “I hopefully want to finish out my career here. I love playing for this organization and more importantly for the city. There’s nothing better for me than trying to bring a title here. Then again, I try to put a lot more pressure on my shoulders because it is the city I grew up in and now it’s not just me. (The other local guys) probably have the same sentiment. It’s not just the team you’re fighting for, it’s the city, which really hasn’t had that many titles.”
After playing in 26 games in 2009, O’Rourke played in 23 combined during the next two seasons due to injury. He made 21 appearances including 18 starts in 2012 during the final year of his contract and was re-signed by the Crew in the offseason.
O’Rourke credited a new offseason training plan to his more-durable 2013 season, and he plans to repeat it this winter.
“Last offseason was definitely an epiphany,” he said. “I finally figured out what I needed to do right before the season so this season I was fortunate enough to be back out there on the field. Right now I’m feeling better than ever so I’m just really excited to be a part of this new phase going forward.”
O’Rourke’s one-game suspension came in interim coach Brian Bliss’ first game at the helm, and when he came off the bench three days later and played 62 minutes at Sporting Kansas City, the poor playing surface resulted in a groin injury. It was frustrating, O’Rourke said, because it was a different type of injury than the ones he has battled the last few years.
“I was feeling great until that Kansas City turf, I pulled my groin,” he said. “I haven’t had a soft tissue injury in nine years, so it was a tough thing. I’m excited that I’ve kind of put all that past behind me.”
When he returned to health, however, O’Rourke remained on the bench.
“He was healthy the last two games of the season but it was a coach’s choice not to play him or put him in the lineup,” Bliss said. “I think we were pretty much married to the fact that we were going to play only one defensive guy and Tony (Tchani) a bit higher. Danny’s more where Wil plays and the back line was working well, so it was coach’s choice at that point. I thought he did OK. I wasn’t sure what to expect health-wise and performance-wise (this year).”
Still, O'Rourke has played in 59 percent of the team's games during the last four seasons. His 2013 guaranteed compensation of $175,000 was seventh-highest on the Crew, according to figures released by the players' union. The length of his contract has not been disclosed, but it is likely the club holds an option on O'Rourke for next season. He is not believed to have a guaranteed contract.
Personnel evaluations are underway, and O’Rourke said he is accustomed to the turnover that the offseason brings. Whether it will involve him this year or not remains to be seen.
“It was (tough to deal with) the first several times I had to go through it on this team,” he said. “You lose not only some teammates and good additions to the team but you lose some friends so you kind of get numb to it and find a way to get through it and realize it is a business. Then you get new guys that you get accustomed to and you look forward to seeing them next year.”