You never know what you're going to get in international friendlies. With one team in preseason and the other in the heart of the regular-season campaign, squads are often interchanged, lineups are brand new and form varies. Still, one thing is almost always guaranteed – depth will be on display. That was particularly true on Wednesday evening between the Crew and Crystal Palace FC, and it shone through in terms of the young talent on the Black & Gold's roster.
Crew rookie striker Adam Bedell scored and Homegrown products Ross Friedman, Matt Wiet and Matt Walker all made their first-team debuts as second-half substitutes in a 2-2 draw against the Barclays Premier League side.
"Definitely a unique experience, for the club and for myself," said Bedell of the match. "It was the first time I had ever gone against a club like that. Definitely a good squad. Obviously they're in their preseason right now. They've been working hard and training hard. It was good to go up against their top guys and big centerbacks, so it was a good challenge for me."
Friedman, Wiet and Walker have all been on-loan with the Crew's USL-PRO affiliate Dayton Dutch Lions FC in the early part of the 2014 season, getting an opportunity to play regularly but not on a stage like this. After the match, you could tell that all three were thrilled to have made their club debuts at Crew Stadium against a high-level opponent.
"It felt great out there. My head was spinning. One training session and we're thrown in there against these guys," said Friedman. "I tried to take a deep breath, take some touches and worked my way into the game ... Once we broke in a little bit and started playing, it was great out there."
All three Dayton loanees are also Homegrown players, making the experience of debuting at Crew Stadium even more special.
"It was so cool to be able to play in front of my friends and family," said Friedman. "I had a group of friends out there that came after their kickball game to the soccer game. Afterwards, I was high-fiving them. It's cool to play in your hometown; I live in Bexley about 10-15 minutes from here. I've been coming here since I was a kid. Being on that pitch and looking up to where I used to sit, that's a cool experience. I'm really grateful for the opportunity and I'm going to work hard for more."
Wiet recently overcame an ACL injury, which he now says has completely healed.
"It was definitely an exciting experience – pretty emotional," said Wiet. "It's been a long road to recovery to get to this point. I've had a lot of repetitions in Dayton to get my knee back into shape. When Coach called my number today, I was ready for it. I think it was a great game for both sides and it was exciting to play in."
Walker, meanwhile, scored in his last match for Dayton and showed flashes of offensive ability for the Crew down the stretch.
"I was excited for sure, I'm not going to lie and say that I wasn't. I was definitely excited," he admitted. "I think your first touch is important. I had a good first touch and wanted to build on it. It was my first opportunity this season to wear the jersey, so naturally I was excited and ready to go."
It was a night that all three Dayton loanees will never forget, another confidence-builder for the emerging Bedell, and for the Crew, a nice showing that helps reinforce that the future is bright for the Black & Gold.