Practices in the aftermath of a disappointing postseason, such as the one the Columbus Crew just experienced, produce two kinds of players: The starters and contributors off the bench who are trying to get through the final days before the break without injury, and reserve players trying to prove a point and get into the manager's plans for next year.
In the latter group is Korey Veeder. He knows every practice session is geared toward his future in the MLS.
“You push through it and hopefully next year you earn your spot, or if someone gets hurt you’re there to back them up,” Veeder said.
Veeder, 20, came to the Crew through a weighted lottery in February and hoped to see the field with the Crew regulars as well as with the US Under-20 team, but both dreams took detours.
The US surprisingly failed to qualify for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Colombia from Jul. 29-Aug. 20 and the closest Veeder got to an MLS match was being on the game day roster several times.
Still, neither he nor Crew coach Robert Warzycha see it as a wasted season for Veeder.
“Being here with the professional players, that’s huge for him because it’s not only physically that he’s developed - you can see he’s a little bit stronger – but mentally that’s a huge step for him and the other young guys,” Warzycha said. “Being around [Chad] Marshall and [William] Hesmer and other players helps him develop playing against those guys.”
Veeder has appeared in eight Reserve League matches and started the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup match against Richmond on June 28, but that’s not a lot of games over nearly an eight-month stretch.
“It’s tough on us young guys, but once you’re out there you’ve got to prove to the head coach you’re there to stay,” Veeder said. “You’re practicing then, there’s no games. It’s definitely different.”
Although the Crew’s season ended with a 1-0 playoff loss at Colorado on Oct. 27, the team continues to train through next week with the carrot being the final reserve game, Nov. 15 vs. D.C. United at Crew Stadium.
The Crew (8-1) can win the East Division and have the overall best record with a win. D.C. (5-0-3) are six points back but play New York on Thursday. If D.C. wins out they claim the title because they handed the Crew their only defeat - way back in the first game of the Reserve League season.
Reserve forward Aaron Horton said the Crew are serious about winning the championship.
“One day someone was joking that New York beat D.C., so we already were celebrating but then we found out he was kidding,” Horton said. “We’re excited for the game. It’s always a good chance to play and show what we can do.”