The Crew continued their massive overhaul by adding four players through Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft but trading last year’s second leading scorer, fan-favorite forward Steven Lenhart.
Lenhart was dealt to San Jose for the 15th pick in this year’s draft and allocation money.
“He was in the last year of his contract,” Crew coach Robert Warzycha said. “The other thing it was a good deal. It was at a time the player we wanted was on the board.”
Lenhart’s six goals were second on the team only to the nine for Guillermo Barros Schelotto, whose contract was not renewed. With the trade of Jason Garey to Houston, the only returning forwards are Emilio Renteria (five goals in 19 games) and Andres (two in eight games).
Yet, the Crew used their first pick (12th overall) on versatile Indiana defender Rich Balchan (BALL-SHIN).
“We are thin in every single area so whoever was going to be the best available we would take,” Warzycha said. “We thought Balchan was the best player in that group (of defenders).”
Balchan’s head coach at Indiana, Todd Yeagley, and assistant coach Brian Maisonneuve played for the Crew, as does current midfielder/defender and former Indiana standout Danny O’Rourke.
“I’m keeping the pipeline alive, which is awesome,” Balchan said. “I’m a very physical, hardworking, competitive type of player. Those are all qualities I developed at IU.
“I bring that competitiveness and fight because there are a lot of technical guys going through the league but you need something extra,” he added. “I mentality have the attitude to win.”
When told he sounded like the feisty O’Rourke, Balchan replied, “That’s the IU way.”
Balchan (6-0, 160) was a first-team All-Big 10 selection in 2010.
He will be given a shot at several positions but said he is most comfortable at right or center back.
“We need defensive midfielders,” Warzycha said. “He can play there in a pinch but in the long run he will settle in the back.”
The Crew tabbed Michigan forward Justin Meram with the 15th selection from the Lenhart deal.
“When the team picks you in the first round they believe in you and your abilities,” Meram said. “It’s a dream come true. Just a year ago the coaches and me we’re talking and I was hoping to get invited to the Combine and now it’s just unbelievable.”
Meram had 17 goals and eight assists for Michigan in 2010.
“I’m a little bit of a flashy player,” Meram said. “I have quickness and get up and down the field and can score some goals.”
The Crew took Duke midfielder Cole Grossman with the 28th pick
“He is good physically and covers a lot of ground and is a good attacker,” Warzycha said.
Finally, South Florida forward Bernardo Anor - who came through the Venezuelan youth system - was acquired with pick No. 48.
“He practiced with us last year so we know him,” Warzycha said. “He’s a left-footed guy and very creative.”