The Crew added two Ohioans to its roster on Wednesday with the signings of Konrad Warzycha and Kyle Hyland to add to the local flavor of Ohio products currently playing for the Black & Gold. Additionally, Danny O'Rourke, Josh Williams, along with Homegrown players Aaron Horton, Matt Lampson, Ben Speas, Wil Trapp and Chad Barson all hail from the Buckeye State.
With the exception of elder statesman O'Rourke, who was in middle school when Major League Soccer was formed, every single one of the Ohio-produced players on the Crew roster grew up cheering for the Black & Gold.
"It's just great to have that many guys who you know want to be here, have a passion for the club and are going to give everything they have. It's extremely important," Crew President and General Manager Mark McCullers said Wednesday. "We've now been through a generation of fans that have not known a world without Major League Soccer. Whether they're becoming players or they're still fans, kids coming out of college now were four years old when Major League Soccer started in 1996. They've grown up playing the game. They consume it from a media standpoint with tickets, merchandise and they watch it on TV. It's an important milestone to have this generation entering the game both on and off the field."
"Ohio has been producing good players for a long time," the newly signed Warzycha added. "This core here all from Ohio kind of shows that. It's good to be a part of it."
For Warzycha and Hyland, signing with the club they grew up supporting is a dream come true.
"I couldn't be happier to be here and sign with the Crew and be a part of the club finally," Warzycha said. "It's something I've wanted since I was little and it's finally come true."
"It's definitely exciting," Hyland echoed. "I've always been a fan since I was a little kid, so coming up with your home team is really exciting. My family was pretty excited, my mom actually started crying. It's definitely a blessing."
For the new additions, making the final roster was no easy task.
Invited to preseason camp as a trialist after he was released from Sporting Kansas City after two seasons, the 24-year-old Warzycha knew he would be held to a higher standard being the son of club legend and current Head Coach Robert Warzycha. The younger Warzycha entered the Black & Gold's preseason camp in Bradenton, Fla. with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder.
"I told myself I need to prove myself more," Warzycha explained. "Just kind of getting by wouldn't do the trick. There was definitely an added pressure. It was a little bit of a chip, but I'm used to it. It's nothing new. It's normal."
"I spent 10 days in Florida and [Warzycha] was one of the players that caught my eye, to be honest," McCullers said. "He has good size, he's a big kid. Other players find him on the field. He has great touch, he's a great passer. I thought he looked really good. He scored a couple of goals. Most importantly, I think he fits in with the team. I don't think the rest of the guys look at him as the coach's son. They look at him as a teammate because he's got good character, a good personality and he's a smart kid. He understands the circumstances."
Undrafted and unsigned, Hyland was invited to the Crew's preseason after four years at IUPUI. He was a familiar name on the technical staff's radar after featuring with the Crew Soccer Academy and Crew Juniors' National Championship-winning squads in 2010.
"I knew I needed to come in to camp and work as hard as I could, show off a lot of work ethic and I thought everything would fall into place if it was meant to be," Hyland said of his preseason approach.
The signings of Warzycha, Hyland and Supplemental Draft pick Shawn Sloan put the Crew's roster at 29 ahead of MLS' upcoming roster compliance deadline.
Konrad Warzycha will don the number 19 jersey for the Crew, the same number his father wore from 1996-2002 with the Black & Gold. Warzycha's number selection was out of necessity, not choice, however.
When he arrived in Bradenton, Fla. for preseason camp, there was only one set of practice gear that would fit. Coincidentally, it was the number 19.
"It was the only open number that would fit him," Crew Equipment Manager Rusty Wummel explained.
Having worn 12 with Sporting KC and 25 during his college career at Ohio State, Warzycha hopes to make the number 19 jersey his own for the Crew.
"It's not my first choice, but I'm fine with it," he said. "I know it was my dad's number, but hopefully I can make a legacy of my own with the number 19 here."