The best thing that can happen while interviewing Crew forward Steven Lenhart is for defender Danny O'Rourke to hijack your voice recorder and take over the Q&A.

The best thing that can happen while interviewing Crew forward Steven Lenhart is for defender Danny O'Rourke to hijack your voice recorder and take over the Q&A.

O'Rourke prodded Lenhart on his recent move from the Brewery District to the Short North ("The skating is a lot better up there"), his preference in that afternoon's Arsenal-Barcelona match ("neither") and the response to his new mustache.

"People stinkin' love it. They love facial hair," Lenhart said. "And this is the first time I've ever had facial hair in my life. It's taken me three months to get here!"

Clearly, off the pitch Lenhart is a goofy, fun-loving dude. Come game time, it's a different story. The third-year forward out of tiny Azusa Pacific has worked his way from obscurity to become a consistent starter and one of the most polarizing players in Major League Soccer - a guy teammates adore and opponents despise.

Lenhart plays striker with a tenacious physicality that often results in flailing limbs, wild collisions and a bobbing blond afro. Defenders reciprocate with clutching, grabbing and violent tackles.

"That's how it is in practice too," O'Rourke said. "He's always pulling and tugging and fighting and elbows up and everything. I think players in games think he's intentionally trying to be dirty and stuff, but that's just how he is.

"It's a good and a bad thing," O'Rourke continues. "He doesn't know how to turn it off. But I think we really don't want him to. Once he starts playing in a lot of big games, he'll start to realize when he might have to tone it down a bit. But that's what we expect from him. That's what we want from him ... He's exactly what we need up there."

Lenhart's unhinged play was both a boon and a burden for the Crew during a recent CONCACAF Champions League series with Mexican power Toluca. In the home leg, Lenhart scored two goals to lead the Crew to a 2-2 draw. On the road, his red card helped doom Columbus to elimination.

Lenhart pleaded not guilty to that offense.

"The guy kind of grabbed me and made a scene, threw his arms up in the air, and I didn't even touch him," Lenhart said. "He's a veteran defender. He knows my reputation, I guess."

So do MLS defenders, and they shudder.

"He's learning how to play forward," O'Rourke said. "He always had the body and the athleticism and the mentality for it. Now he's becoming the complete package."