NEW YORK – The story of new Columbus Crew right back Korey Veeder could have a storybook ending after all.
The 19-year-old defender found himself in limbo late in 2010 after his USL squad Crystal Palace Baltimore ceased operations. With the team folding and the parent club in England facing financial struggles of its own, Veeder was eventually released, opening the door to MLS.
The Crew landed Veeder's rights in a weighted player lottery on Tuesday afternoon, and he now has a chance to replace the player he admired in recent years.
“Actually I did look up to Frankie Hejduk a lot, watching the national team and catching some of the Columbus games,” Veeder told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “It’d be an honor to take his spot.”
The St. Petersburg, Fla. native was a central midfielder before joining the Under-17 Residency camp, where he became a full-time right back. Then he was spotted by Crystal Palace Baltimore during a Pennsylvania tournament, where he represented his US Soccer Development Academy club team Clearwater Chargers.
When the USL side made him an offer to go pro, he was faced with the eternal dilemma of the 18-year-old elite soccer player in America: go to college or join the professional ranks?
“I was really debating,” Veeder said. “I had a scholarship offer from South Carolina and it was either going to college or turning professional. My dream was to go pro, but do I wait an extra four years down the line when I’m 22 or 23, or do I take it now and build my career?”
Veeder went the pro route with the end goal of getting to Crystal Palace Baltimore’s parent squad in England. In the meantime, his performances in the USL earned him a call-up to the US Under-20 national team, coached by Thomas Rongen.
“As an 18-year-old he played week in and week out against good competition, against men,” Rongen said of Veeder’s USL experience. “He’s a very good two-way right full back. He can defend and he’s pretty tough winning his battles. He also has a keen sense of when to go forward.
“He’ll make a very good pro and will have a long career in MLS as a contributor to any team.”
Veeder has now participated in a total of four Under-20 camps, but he has some stiff competition at right back in recent draftees Kofi Sarkodie (Houston Dynamo) and Zarek Valentin (Chivas USA). Only two of the three will make it on the squad that will be selected to compete in CONCACAF U-20 qualifying.
“Columbus is a good team for him looking at the depth chart of defenders on that team,” Rongen said. “We struggle in our country from the senior team on down to find fullbacks and center backs, which is pretty amazing. And so many MLS teams are struggling with that as well.
“Korey is a very solid, consistent defender with very good attacking qualities which I think this league is looking for.”
And for Veeder, whose time with in the Under-20 camps has been the only activity since Crystal Palace Baltimore closed shop last September, this MLS opportunity is exactly what he was looking for too.
“I’m finally getting back into it and I can’t wait to be out there with the team soon,” Veeder said.