It's not often Crew supporters have the chance to interact and mingle with players and staff. Ahead of the club's Opening Match on Saturday, the team held its annual Supporters' Summit on Tuesday night with special guests Crew President and General Manager Mark McCullers, Technical Director Brian Bliss, Head Coach Robert Warzycha and defenders Josh Williams and Gláuber available for questions.
The event was open to Nordecke season ticket holders and active members of supporters' groups. Fans were able to ask any question they wanted to the panel. Topics ranged from Goal 10K progress to Robert Warzycha's jacket.
"Every year that the Crew tries to do something like this, it's great to actually have that connection between fans and the Front Office, players, coaches-- the whole spectrum," Supporter Aaron Angel said. "That's what sets this team apart from everyone else, they're so close with the community and continually striving to keep that relationship open. The dialogue between the two sides is always formal, always cordial."
"It's always great interacting with the players," fellow supporter Julia Oesch added. "I'm a huge Josh Williams fan, and he knows it. He's always so cordial, all of the players are. They always want to just sit talk, give you a hug and say 'Hi.' It's always a great experience meeting Robert [Warzycha] and the Front Office. They're really relaxed and they want to get to talk to us, which is nice."
For Williams, its was a nice change of pace from typically interacting with fans through Twitter.
"You can kind of put a face to a Twitter name now," the defender said. "It's good because you don't normally get to meet fans that much. This is more of a personal setting here. I was a little nervous at first when I didn't know what they would be asking, but they handled pretty well.
"It was fun to get up there and hear some interesting stuff and some funny questions here and there."
The Crew's resident Canadian Drew Beckie is looking forward to a weekend trip across the border to face Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The rookie defender is expected to be welcomed by friends, family and fellow Canadians for the match.
"I'm always excited to go back [to Canada]," Beckie said over the phone. "Even though Vancouver isn't home, I love being back and I'm looking forward to seeing friends there."
After playing four years at Denver University, Beckie can't wait to hear "Oh, Canada!" played before kickoff for the first time in his professional career. The Regina, Saskatchewan native has represented his country at the U-17, U-20 and U-23 levels in the past.
"I'm a very proud Canadian," he explained. "I love the National Anthem. I think Americans love theirs too, but it's just something that's in the Canadian spirit. Playing for the National Team, you really feel that pride to represent Canada. I'm really excited to hear 'Oh, Canada!'"
Despite his Saskatchewan roots, Beckie is an avid follower of the NHL Vancouver Canucks. The rookie faces a conundrum as his Canucks face the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday evening, but the rookie isn't bailing on the team he grew up cheering for.
"I always root for the Canucks, but now Columbus is my hometown team," Beckie said. "I'm kind of torn, but I'm going to go with Vancouver. I don't want to make any enemies, but I'll say it will be a draw and an overtime win for the Canucks. That's the easiest way I can predict the game."
Despite falling 3-1 in Sunday's Final against Mexico, Crew midfielder Wil Trapp earned a spot on the CONCACAF U-20 Championship's Best XI team. The Gahanna native started all six matches for the United States and scored one goal in the tournament to help his country qualify for the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
"[Trapp] was one of the guys that was one of our 'Steady Eddies' throughout the tournament and his presence in the middle of the midfield allowed some of our other attacking players to do what they do best and improvise, and Wil is a good reader of the game and anticipates a lot of things that could happen and do happen," said Crew Technical Director and U-20 Assistant Coach Brian Bliss of Trapp's performance after the Mexico match.
"Knowing what we know about him, and what he does on the field, he's an essential part of that group and his consistent play is probably his biggest asset, along with his ability to read the game and his leadership. He's a great asset for that team and we look forward to him playing in the U-20 World Cup."
Trapp will return to Columbus this week to begin his rookie season in MLS before re-joining the U.S. U-20s for the FIFA World Cup in Turkey this summer.
Though over 2,200 miles away, the Crew's weekend trip to Los Angeles will be a homecoming of sorts for Southern California natives Chad Marshall and Tyson Wahl. Marshall (Riverside) and Wahl (Newport Beach) played youth soccer together and are expecting plenty of friends and family to be in attendance at the Home Depot Center for the Black & Gold's match against Chivas USA on Saturday.
"There will definitely some family and a couple friends at the game," Wahl said on Thursday. "It's always nice to go to LA and it would be especially nice to come away with a win."
The Crew hasn't played at the Home Depot Center since 2011, and Marshall is looking forward to playing in front of family once again.
"It'll be nice to have a good group of friends and family there," the veteran defender said. "It'll be cool to get to play in front of them, especially because we didn't get to go out there last year."
Kickoff for Saturday's match is slated for 10:30 p.m. ET and can be found on FOX Sports Ohio.
Playing in the biggest match of his young career, a massive weight was lifted off of Wil Trapp's shoulders as the United States handled Canada 4-2 in the CONCACAF U-20 Championship quarterfinal to qualify for this summer's 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey on Tuesday night. Trapp's deflected, long-distance volley to make it 3-1 just before haftime gave the U.S. the momentum it needed to hold of its rival to the North in the second half and secure the victory.
Trapp and the United States move on to face Cuba in the semifinal of the regional tournament on Friday, March 1 at 6 p.m. ET.
For the first time this preseason, Homegrown forward Aaron Horton trained with the Black & Gold on Tuesday. Horton spent his offseason traveling the globe between a mission trip in South Africa and trials with FK Sarajevo in Bosnia and Hammarby IF in Sweden.
Training with teams in Europe was a valuable experience for the 20-year-old forward.
"It was awesome just being able to get out and travel around the globe, playing with different clubs in Europe," Horton said. "It was a great experience. I had a lot of fun too. I think I gained experience on all levels."
For Horton, the differences in culture and soccer in Bosnia and Sweden took some getting used to compared the lifestyle he is accustomed to in Columbus.
"It's different.That's the best way I can put it," Horton explained. "Sarajevo was different from Sweden, Sweden is different from here. It's all different. The training was all good, but at the same time, it was very different. The style of play in every single country is different. It was just about adapting to the places I was at and how they play, how things work. All-in-all, it was good."
Upon his arrival back at the Crew's training ground in Obetz on Tuesday, Horton was welcomed with open arms by his teammates as he enters his third season with the Black & Gold.
"I'm happy to see everyone," he said. "Everyone here has welcomed me back warmly. I love these guys, I love my teammates. It was good to be around the coaches again, they were happy to see me back. It's good to be back."
During a busy weekend that consisted of two matches, and travel from Florida to North Carolina and from North Carolina to Columbus, several Crew players took to Twitter to honor their fallen teammate around the inaugural Kirk Urso Memorial Match. Even players who didn't get the chance to play alongside Urso like Dominic Oduro and Drew Beckie showed their respect.
Here are some of the highlights, 140 characters at a time:
— Ethan Finlay (@EthanFinlay13) February 24, 2013
Heading to North Carolina with my brothers to honor a teammate that was taken too soon. #KU15
— Josh Williams (@josh3williams) February 24, 2013
Urso was my roommate in residency, a hard worker, great player, and even better person. Looking forward to playing in his memory #crew96
— Ryan Finley (@Ryan_Finley9) February 24, 2013
— Aaron Schoenfeld (@aaronschoenfeld) February 24, 2013
It's your day bubs. Maybe I can hit a patented Urso bomb. Either way it's an honor 2 play in your memory. Miss u Kirk. Let's have fun 2day.
— Eric Gehrig (@eGehrig16) February 24, 2013
Just know you're not alone @kurso369 . We miss that witty funny humor you always had everyday with that outstanding hair and smile . So glad
— Justin Meram (@JustinMeram) February 24, 2013
I get to play today for you. We all love you and miss you so damn much! #KU15
— Justin Meram (@JustinMeram) February 24, 2013
— Tony Tchani (@TonyTchani23) February 24, 2013
— Dominic Oduro (@Freakyfast8) February 24, 2013
I know I gave up twitter for lent but I think The Lord allows a tweet for Kirk Urso, although I didn't know him, it's an honor to be here
— Drew Beckie (@DrewBeckie) February 24, 2013
Crew midfielder Wil Trapp and the United States begin their 2013 U-20 World Cup Qualifying campaign against Haiti on Monday night in the CONCACAF U-20 Championships in Puebla, Mexico. The Homegrown product from Gahanna, Ohio has been a mainstay in Head Coach Tab Ramos' camp leading up to the tournament, and figures to be an influential figure in the United States' midfield.
The U.S. features in Group A of the 12-team tournament with Haiti and Costa Rica as the top four nations will advance to the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey this summer.
Monday night's match against Haiti can be found on FOX Soccer Channel, and will be shown live at 6:30 p.m. ET.
While Jairo Arrieta will join the Crew's preseason camp in Orlando, Fla. in the coming days, another player has left the Black & Gold for International duty.
Homegrown rookie midfielder Wil Trapp left Columbus Thursday morning for Puebla, Mexico, the site of the 2013 CONCACAF U-20 Championship. Trapp has been a mainstay in the U.S. U-20 National Team's midfield over the last two years, as the Stars and Stripes hope to qualify for 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey this summer. The top four teams in Mexico will move on to the big stage in Turkey. The U.S. failed to qualify for the last World Cup in 2011.
"It's going to be big," Trapp said before leaving Columbus. "I'm excited just because the 20s as team last time did not qualify [for the World Cup]. We want to kind of make-up for that and do well and qualify for the World Cup. It's a huge stage. I just want to make it, big time."
Trapp spent 10 days with the U.S. U-20 National Team in Puebla in January to prepare for the altitude issues the team will face in the tournament before joining the Crew for its preseason trip to Bradenton, Fla. The United States has been placed in Group A of the tournament with Costa Rica and Haiti. Trapp and the U-20s will kick off play on February 18 against Haiti.
Crew striker Jairo Arrieta and Costa Rica will begin the Hexagonal round of 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying for the CONCACAF Region on Wednesday night against Panama at 9:30 p.m. ET. La Sele enters the match in Panama City fresh off winning the 2013 Copa Centroamericana where Arrieta won the tournament's Golden Boot award, tallying twice in group play.
Costa Rica's Heach Coach, Jorge Luís Pinto, wlll likely deploy Arrieta as a strike option off the bench as Real Betis' Joel Campbell and Real Salt Lake's Álvaro Saborío are expected to start up top for the Ticos.
Arrieta made his Senior Team debut in 2011 and has made nine caps for Costa Rica, scoring two goals for his country in the process. The striker is expected to re-join the Black & Gold in Orlando for preseason training later this week.