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Rookies

29 May 5:48 pm
Ben Swanson makes his Crew SC debut against Valencia CF Wednesday night.
 
 
“I’ll cherish this for the rest of my life. Being able to step out there and put on the first team jersey for the first time, against a club like Valencia, I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”
 
Seventeen-year-old Ben Swanson said this after his Crew SC debut.
 
He and three others dawned the Black & Gold on the pitch for the first time Wednesday night against renowned La Liga premier club, Valencia CF.
 
“Yeah, it was really exciting,” Swanson said. “I knew Gregg [Berhalter] said earlier in the week that everyone was getting 45 [minutes of playing time]. So I kind of prepared during the week knowing that I was going to play. Throughout school today, I couldn’t really focus, I was just kind of excited just to be on the field and play against a top club like Valencia. I had my friends and family [at the stadium], it was incredible.”
 
Berhalter recognized Swanson’s enthusiasm and was pleased overall with his performance.
 
“He was certainly excited,” Berhalter said. “Part of his job is to calm his nerves a little, be able to perform and I think he did that well. You didn’t really see the nerves and of course there were times when he made mistakes. But, overall the willingness for him to get on the ball and to want to make passes, that’s what I’m most proud of. It’s not easy for a 17-year-old to do that and he didn’t show any fear. I think that’s a good step.”
 
But Swanson wasn’t the only player to make his Crew SC debut. As we continue to build depth, Sergio Campbell, Kalen Ryden and Brad Stuver also earned the opportunity to play.
 
“We wanted to give everyone game-time and we wanted to mix the lineups up a little bit, so it was challenging,” Berhalter said. “Piecing it together wasn’t easy but I think both groups did okay.”
 
Not only did the international friendly provide a good opportunity for the coach to try different lineups, he was also able fully assess his roster.
 
“Playing against them, to give our guys that experience was great at this moment because we’re going to need everyone in the season,” said Berhalter. “You get to evaluate guys and see what they’re up to and check their form. Overall, I think it was a good exercise.”
 
Someone who earned a positive response from his debut was goalkeeper Brad Stuver.
 
“I think he’s made a lot of progress,” said Berhalter. “I think if you look how comfortable he was with his feet, playing out of the back under some pressure, that was really good to see. And then coming up with some big saves, that’s what we ask our goalies to do. Steve [Clark] has been doing it all year, or since he’s been here. It’s great to see Brad step up and have a good performance.”
 
Surprisingly, he notched a shot following a Crew SC corner in stoppage time.
 
“I guess that’s the good thing about friendlies,” said Stuver. “You can pretty much do whatever you want, nothing will go wrong. I looked over at the bench and Gregg [Berhalter] just kind of nodded his head and I was like ‘okay, so I’m going to make a 120 yard sprint’ and luckily the ball fell to my foot. I’m really, really sad it didn’t go in.”
 
Even more impressive was his performance between the posts. It certainly didn’t look like his first Crew SC game, as he made multiple remarkable saves.
 
“Every big save like that, it’s definitely a confidence booster,” said Stuver. “Getting the first one, definitely was able to build off that, definitely get the confidence up. I had great guys in front of me that made the saves a little bit easier for me.”
 
Stuver credits his teammates for his feat, but Berhalter confirmed the keeper was solid regardless.
 
“He was good,” said Berhalter. “He saved the one-on-one with [Alvaro] Negredo and had a couple other saves. He was good and it’s nice to see. Obviously, he hasn’t been playing that much and it’s been difficult for him at times, but it’s great to see when a player gets an opportunity that he takes advantage of it.”
 
Stuver said the same of Swanson’s first appearance.
 
“Ben Swanson looked good,” said Stuver. “He was playing the Tony Tchani role with [Mohammed Saeid] coming in playing his normal role and I think Ben did really well. I think he has been working a lot on his fitness and 45 minutes in a game scenario is definitely going to help his fitness out, but I thought his touches were good and I thought he bodied the bigger guys pretty well. He was able to use his body to shield the guys off and be able to turn there in the midfield. I thought he did really well.”
 
Getting positive feedback from his teammates and coaches was a bonus for Ben Swanson. This wasn’t just any match for the rookie midfielder, after all.
 
“It was a sweet experience,” Swanson said. “I walked in the locker room and I saw my jersey for the first time. And to be able to put it on, and to be able to step out in front of my friends and family and fans, and play against a top club like Valencia—it was a dream come true.”
 
 
 
 
20 March 12:53 pm

When Crew forward Ryan Finley transferred to Notre Dame after his sophmore season at Duke, he probably expected to start a few games for the Irish after netting 28 goals for the Blue Devils in two seasons.

Notre Dame Head Coach Bobby Clark saw things differently.

Using college soccer's unique substition rules to an advantage, Clark inserted Finley into his tactics 20 minutes into each game. Finley went on to score 28 goals, 21 of which came in 2012, despite not starting a single match in two seasons in South Bend.

"[Coming off the bench] was something I got used to," Finley explained. "The starters only played 20 minutes and I'd come on for 70 minutes, so it wasn't like I was playing only 30 minutes or anything. I was seeing an extended amount of time each game."

With Jairo Arrieta away with the Costa Rican National Team, Finley has the chance to start his first match in two years when the Black & Gold plays D.C. United on Saturday. The rookie is ready for whichever direction Head Coach Robert Warzycha decides to take on Saturday.

"I've played soccer for a long time," he said. "Whether I'm starting or coming off the bench, I think I can adapt my game and hopefully help the team out."

11 January 12:52 pm

After signing as the fifth Homegrown player in Crew history, University of Akron standout Chad Barson joined TheCrew.com's Cody Sharrett for a short Q&A.

Cody Sharrett: Congratulations on signing with the Crew. How do you plan on contributing to the Black & Gold as a rookie?

Chad Barson: I think I bring a good work ethic. I have a good mentality in the way I approach things. I'm willing to contribute, and I'm a team guy. I put the team first. I'll put the team's needs above my own and whatever they need, that's what I'm willing to do.

CS: You've been captain for the past two seasons at Akron and as a centerback, you have to be a leader on the field. How do you approach being a leader as a rookie?

CB: You have to be yourself. You can't be shy. As a rookie, you're stepping into uncharted territory and just because you're the young guy or the new guy, it doesn't matter how long you've been around. Obviously guys that have been around have more say, but you still need to be able to lead, to talk and to organize guys because the position I play, you see the whole game from where you play.

CS: Your coach at Akron, Caleb Porter, has moved on to the Portland TImbers in MLS. How did he develop your game over the past four years at Akron.

CB: Basically, I like to say everything about my game is a result of Coach Porter. The way we trained at Akron, the mentality he teaches you how to approach life, how to approach school, how to approach soccer: it's really all from him. I see a lot of him in myself. When I talk, when I play, just everything really.

CS: You were born and raised in Columbus. Do you remember your first Crew game? Which players did you look up to?

CB: I don't remember my first Crew game. But watching guys like [Brian] McBride, [Brian] Maisonneuve and Jeff Cunningham, I remember watching those guys all the time when I was younger.

CS: Over the past few summers, you've spent time training with the First Team. Who is the toughest guy you've had to defend?

CB: Honestly size-wise, Andy Iro and Chad Marshall because they're some pretty big guys. I'd also throw Steve Lenhart in there because he's such a scrappy guy and he likes to be physical, but he's also a great guy.

30 March 9:54 am

Crew Rookie Kevan George returned to Columbus on Wednesday after serving international duty for the Trinidad & Tobago U23 squad for CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying in Los Angeles. Though the U23 Soca Warriors failed to move on to the next round of qualifying in Kansas City, George's time with the T&T U23s provided valuable experience.

"It was a phenomenal experience overall," George said of his time with the Soca Warriors. "I learned to play with different players and adapt to different roles that the coaches wanted me to perform."

After going 90 minutes in all three of T&T's qualifying matches, the rookie midfielder is happy to be back with the Black & Gold.

"I missed being around the guys and training with the team I was drafted with. I'm just happy to be (in Columbus) again," George said Thursday.

With both a first team and a reserve match this weekend in Toronto, George could see minutes with the Crew in some capacity.

28 March 9:36 am

The Crew's newest signing, forward Aaron Schoenfeld, sat down with TheCrew.com's Cody Sharrett to talk about his path to Columbus, his MLS debut, and more.

Cody Sharrett: Aaron, first of all, welcome to Columbus. Explain the process and emotions of leaving the Montreal Impact camp and getting a call from the Crew.

Aaron Schoenfeld: The day I got released from Montreal, I was pretty devasted-- as any player would be. It's been definitely my dream to become a professional soccer player. When that happened, it was kind of a whirlwind. You don't know if anything else is going to work out. At the same time, when I got released, the next day I was in camp with Orlando City SC, a USL side. I trained with them for three or four days, and then I got a call from (the Crew). It was just crazy, the turn of events. I was more than excited to have one more opportunity. I knew if I didn't make it here, I would have to end up playing in a lower division.

CS: You made your debut against the team that cut you, Montreal.  You had a couple of good touches, but never really got a chance at goal, was there any extra motivation to score against the Impact?

AS: I little bit, for sure. At the same time, I'm not saying I disagree with their decision... I was confident enough and I thought I should've made their roster, but since I'm not mad at them there's no hard feelings. Obviously, I wanted to go out there and not necessarily prove that they made a mistake, but at the same time those are my buds and it's always fun to score on your friends.

CS: You're from Knoxville, Tennessee. MLS-wise that's kind of a no-man's land. Were there any teams you followed growing up?

AS: To be honest, the Columbus Crew is the closest team to Knoxville.  If you do support MLS there, it's the Columbus Crew. Growing up, we played tournaments in Dayton. A lot of my teammates and I would drive to the Crew games.

CS: You're obviously a big guy at 6'3", providing a nice target forward for the Crew. What weapons do you bring to the field?

AS: I try to use my strength and my size the best that I can. If I utilize it, it can be an advantage: being big, trying to hold the play up and linking other people in. Pretty much, my game should be around the ball, getting a head to the end of balls, and getting tap-ins off the rebound.

12 March 9:36 am

Crew rookie midfielder, Ethan Finlay talks about his first MLS game after coming in for Dilly Duka in the first half against Colorado.

08 March 10:32 am

Crew draftee Kevan George has been called into Trinidad & Tobago’s Under-23 National Team camp in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in advance of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament, which they kick off against Mexico on March 23 at The Home Depot Center in Carson Calif. The Soca Warriors will play five tune-up matches in Florida over two weeks before the Olympic qualifying roster is announced.

“Playing for T&T would be an honour,” George told TTFF media officer Shaun Fuentes. “I have been in contact with the U-23s and I will meet up with them in Florida before the qualifiers to try earn a spot on the team.

“Every day is very competitive in training and you have to bring your best game to show the coaches what you are capable of and earn the respect of your teammates,” he said of his stint in the MLS. George is hoping to put in meaningful contributions to T&T’s Olympic campaign.

READ MORE...

 

01 March 5:18 pm

Rookie defender Aubrey Perry talks about signing his first professional contract with the Columbus Crew.

09 February 3:50 pm

As we landed in Florida, it made me realize how much I missed it – 76 degrees, tropical breeze, palm trees and, most importantly, sunlight… something I haven't seen in a while. It felt like a vacation more than a preseason camp. Our bus trip to Bradenton from Tampa Airport lasted 45 minutes. Right away, we were assigned our rooms and then off to the IMG Fields for a light training session of 5v2s.

So far being a pro has been an amazing experience both on and off the pitch. The coaching staff, new players, veterans, down to the trainers, have all been very welcoming and helpful in the transition from being a collegiate athlete. Everyone seemed very friendly although, on the field, the organization lives up to its creed as the "hardest working." It was as if the sound of a ball transformed everyone into work horses. Every day we work harder and harder and push ourselves beyond limits in the Florida sun to achieve the ultimate goal as MLS champs this year.

After a long session, we cool down, stretch, and do all the necessary things to prepare us for a second session in the afternoon or the following day. One thing that has stood out to me has been the emphasis on diet and rest. After each session, there's a shake and a meal ready for us in the cafeteria. For each  individual, treatment/exercises are tailored to fit your needs. For instance, to maximize peak fitness we use heart monitors, which is something I have never used before.

There are players that I've played against in my college career (the likes of Aubrey Perry for USF) and some from club soccer (such as Andrew Bulls and Ethan Finlay), but we haven't reminisced much about those times yet. The day will come when bragging rights will arise in our conversations, though.

Every day in training has been a fight. The coach has been demanding consistency and quality every day which brings intensity and high speed of play. The vets have been encouraging on and off the field. I have been lucky to establish a relationship with a few of the older guys and they have been giving me good advice that will definitely help me out moving forward.

Off the field, it has been very low-key. Most of my time has been spent either hanging out in our living room watching TV with the roomies or playing FIFA in Aubrey's room. There isn't much to do for fun around Bradenton, so we tend to stay around the apartment complex most of the time. I just stay up to date with Twitter and Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family.