After selecting Indiana University defender Rich Balchan with its first-round selection (No. 12 overall) at the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, the Columbus Crew made news by acquiring another first-rounder (No. 15 overall) and allocation money in exchange for forward Steven Lenhart. Per club and league policy, no further terms of the deal were disclosed. The Crew then used the 15th pick to select University of Michigan forward Justin Meram.
With its second-round selection (No. 28 overall) the Black & Gold tabbed Duke midfielder Cole Grossman, then capped its day at the Baltimore Convention Center by taking University of South Florida midfielder Bernardo Anor in the third round (No. 48 overall).
“Balchan is a good overall athlete,” said Crew coach Robert Warzycha. “He’s very versatile and can play in different positions. He’s a lot like Danny O’Rourke and was a good pick-up for us. Meram scored a lot of goals last season and he’s very fast and not afraid to take on defenders. He’s going to be good for us, as we need some speed in front.
“Grossman addressed our need at (holding) midfield. With O’Rourke not fully fit yet, we only have (Kevin) Burns who plays there and it was good for us to bring in another player who could hold the midfield. He’s very versatile and can move up the field and is a good passer. Anor is a Venezuelan who is very creative and a good overall player and addresses another one of our needs in the middle.”
Balchan, a 6-0, 21-year old native of Carmel, Ind., recorded four goals and seven assists in 80 games during a four-year career at Indiana University. He was selected to the 2010 All-Big Ten First Team and is a two-time Big Ten-All Tournament team. Balchan is also a six-time state champion with his club team, the Carmel United Cosmos III, and received an All-State Honorable Mention while at Carmel High School.
“I am very excited to be selected by the Columbus Crew,” Balchan said. “It was nice to watch it all unfold at home with my family and I was happy to go that high. The Crew is a great organization and very close to home for me so I look forward to joining the team.”
Meram is a 6-foot-1 native of Shelby Township, Mich., and product of the University of Michigan and Yavapai College. He scored 75 goals and recorded 44 assists in 93 games during a college career in which he was named to the 2010 NSCAA All-Region Second Team and received Second Team All-Big Ten honors in 2009 and 2010. Meram is also a back-to-back NJCAA National Champion as well as National Junior College Player of the Year in 2007 and 2008. He was a 2008 NSCAA and NJCAA All-American and was named NJCAA All-Tournament MVP in 2007.
“This is an amazing feeling,” Meram said. “I couldn’t have asked to be in a better situation. Columbus is a great team and my mom is happy it’s close to home. I have heard a lot of good things about the coaching staff and am happy they took a chance on me.”
Grossman is a 6-0, 21-year-old from St. Louis who scored 25 goals and recorded 24 assists in 70 games during his four-year career at Duke. He is a two-time recipient of All-ACC honors and was named to the 2009 NSCAA All-South Region Second Team. He was also named to the All-ACC Freshmen Team in 2007. Grossman trained in Brazil for two years while taking online courses for high school credit before enrolling at Saint Louis University High School. He was named All-State following his lone season of high school soccer.
“It is an honor to be selected by the Columbus Crew,” Grossman said. “It’s a great opportunity and I am excited to get started. I am a passionate player who loves the game and I am always willing to do anything that will help me and my teammates succeed.”
Anor is a speedy, 5-foot-11 native of Caracas, Venezuela, who briefly trained with the Crew in 2010. A product of the University of South Florida, he led his team in goals (six) and points (15) in his final season at USF.
Five of the first eight players selected were members of the University of Akron’s NCAA Men’s College Cup national championship squad, including Ohio natives Kofi Sarkodie (Houston at No. 7) and Michael Nanchoff (Vancouver at No. 8). University of Louisville defender and Grove City native J.T. Murray was selected by Sporting Kansas City in the second round (No. 32 overall), before Ohio State midfielders Matt Gold (Toronto at No. 43) and Konrad Warzycha (K.C. at No. 46) went in the third round. Warzycha is the son of Crew head coach Robert and a graduate of Dublin Jerome High School.