Less than a week after his first taste of professional soccer, Crew rookie defender and Homegrown Player Chad Barson could be next in line to start along the Black & Gold backline against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday (5:00 p.m. ET / UniMas, FOX Sports Ohio).
Centerback Gláuber will miss the match due to yellow card accumulation, while Chad Marshall and Agustín Viana have been ruled out with hamstring injuries. Viana was on track to return against the Red Bulls before suffering a setback in his recovery earlier in the week. Danny O'Rourke's status following an ankle injury remains in question.
Barson will use the seven minutes he saw last week against Toronto FC after coming on for a cramped-up Tyson Wahl as a learning experience as he competes for a spot in the Crew's starting lineup on Sunday.
"I learned you always have to be ready for the game," Barson said. "You'd never expect to get into a game like that. You think the guys on the field are going to close it out, but a guy goes down with an injury and you get thrown out there. You just have to make sure you're doing whatever is possible to help the team get a result."
Despite only seven minutes of action as a pro, Head Coach Robert Warzycha has no fear of inserting Barson into his lineup.
"It wasn't longer than a few minutes, but I think he got the idea of what the professional game looks like and the pressure on the field," Warzycha said. "He's been doing well. I wouldn't be afraid to put him on the field in New York."
At 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, Barson may not provide as much of a physical presence along the backline as Gláuber, Marshall, Wahl or Josh Williams. Instead, the rookie has impressed his coaches with smart defending and precision passing from the back.
"For some players, being smart is their best quality," Warzycha said. "That's Chad's quality, being calm on the ball and good passing: that's what he does.
"He can play anywhere in the back four positions. Because the New York forwards are big, maybe [playing centerback] would be too much to ask. As of right now, on the right side he can get his feet wet."
Primarily a centerback while playing for current Portland Timbers FC Head Coach Caleb Porter at the University of Akron for four years, Barson has seamlessly made the transition to playing either outside back position in MLS. If included in the starting lineup on Sunday, the Homegrown defender would likely play on the right side of the defense alongside Eric Gehrig, Williams and Wahl.
"The adjustment [to outside back] has been very good," Barson explained. "It helps when you have a guy like Gehrig behind you that can help you out and communicate to you, help you positionally. I think we complement each other very well. When he steps, I know when to cover. We have good teamwork and communication.
"[The chemistry] is very good. Gehrig has been in there, we've played together the past three months. We do extra stuff with Josh everyday and Tyson is a solid player. I think we all mesh together very well. We've bought in to helping us stay organized and communicating to each other, helping the guys out in front of us."
If he were to start, Barson would become the third Homegrown Player in the Crew's history to start an MLS match joining Matt Lampson and Ben Speas.
SPEAS HOPEFUL TO RETURN
Barson's fellow Homegrown Player, Ben Speas, could see a return to the field against the Red Bulls after missing the last two matches with a hamstring strain. The second-year winger returned to training this week and may see action against New York on Sunday barring any setback.
"I feel good," Speas said Thursday. "My hamstring was bothering me and I couldn't really do much, but it feels good. We'll see.
"I've been progressing each day, doing a little more."
With striker Jairo Arrieta serving the second of his two-match suspension for violent conduct against Colorado Rapids defender Drew Moor on May 11, the Crew could use Speas' ability in the attack.
"[Speas] is a good player," Warzycha said. "Obviously, he's shown he can score goals and I think it would nice to have him [on Sunday]."
In his short time recovering from the hamstring injury, Speas was able to gain perspective on the game by watching his teammates in action. He is hopeful to put those lessons to use on Sunday.
"I've been able sit back and kind of see what I need to do when I'm out there," he said.
"I'm excited to get back out there and help the guys do whatever we can to get the W."