While he would have liked it to come sooner, Homegrown rookie midfielder Ben Speas' made the most of his MLS debut in the Crew's 2-1 season finale victory against Toronto FC last Sunday afternoon. The University of North Carolina product was a threat on the left flank, getting off three shots and creating numerous chances for others in the attack during his 64 minutes against the Canadian rivals.
"I felt comfortable," Speas reflected on his Crew debut. "I thought I would feel like that. It was good. It was everything I had dreamt it to be, for sure."
It's been a long road for Speas to get his first official MLS action as a professional. Before his rookie season began, the Stow, Ohio native hit a road block after suffering a sports hernia in preseason training that required surgery to repair. Speas couldn't train again until June, putting him at the bottom of the club's depth chart for most of the season.
Once he became fit, the winger began to show flashes of brilliance, netting the match winner against Barclays Premier League side Stoke City on July 24 and contributing several standout performances in the Crew's MLS Reserve League campaign. Finally, in the Black & Gold's most important match of the season on October 20 against D.C. United, Speas cracked the gameday roster for the first time before making his debut on Sunday against Toronto FC.
"We know that Ben is a very good player," Crew Head Coach Robert Warzycha said. "Obviously, his injury and the surgery set him back a little bit, but he came on strong in the end and really deserved a spot in the team and to start."
Speas admits the adjustment to MLS has been a difficult one, even if most of it has come on the training ground.
"Just getting used to the style of play, it's different," Speas explained. "It's a different style of play from college or any play I've been accustomed to. The speed and physicality, I guess because I'm a little bit smaller, I'm not getting into the battles that some guys get into. Whether it's the spacing or making the right runs, I learned a lot this year."
Heading into the offseason, Speas is ready to take the next step and feature regularly for the Black & Gold in 2013.
"I'll be working hard this offseason to try to get better and come in ready for next year," the rookie said. "The injury set me back [this year], but you're going to have that. It is what it is, it's part of the game. I'll be ready for next year and ready to contribute to the team next year."
"I think overall, [Speas] has to get better in every aspect of the game," Warzycha added. "Obviously, I can't say any player is complete. That's why we comes [to training] every day: to learn and get better. I think if you ask him, every aspect can be improved."
Warzycha finished, "He's one of the young guys on this team that is very talented. It seems like he's working very hard and he wants to be the best he can. I think he has a lot of potential. He showed us this year that in time, he can be a very, very good player."