OBETZ, Ohio – A 1-0 victory Saturday to win the U-19 US Youth Soccer National Championship offered up some insight into a bright future for the Columbus Crew’s burgeoning youth academies.
The Crew Juniors defeated the FC Delco Hammerheads (Pa.) on a goal from Butler University’s Tyler Pollock in the 36th minute in Overland Park, Kan., to become the first MLS team and the first from Ohio to win the 75th annual McGuire Cup.
“It validates what we’re doing with our youth and our youth development,” said Crew technical director Brian Bliss, who is also the Crew Juniors coach. “Obviously, we’ve been close with our academy teams in the past reaching the playoffs and the one year (2008) we did get to the finals and came up a little bit short.”
“For a newly formed program, so to speak, it validates what we’re doing,” he added. “It gives a little more credibility to the league and more attention to us now that we won.”
The Crew Soccer Academy began in 2008, and finished third nationally in the U.S. Soccer U-18 Developmental Academy tournament in its inaugural year.
A majority of the U-19 championship team are from the Crew Soccer Academy, including goalie Justin Luthy (Boston College) and defenders Chad Barson (Akron University) and Matt Wiet (Indiana University).
Barson is from nearby Lewis Center while Wiet attended the same suburban Worthington Kilbourne High School as Crew defender Danny O’Rourke.
While the Crew Juniors’ roster was heavy on Ohioans, there were also non-Buckeyes such as New York’s Brian Rogers (Harvard) and North Carolina’s Nick Millington (Wake Forest).
“We had a really good mix of players,” Bliss said. “The guys performed well and over the course of the summer and I think we were the best team.”
Bliss credits the academy staff that includes former Crew midfielder Billy Thompson for identifying players a few years ago and developing them for higher levels.
The Crew’s U-17s will play Houston in the third-place match of the SUM U-17 Cup in Houston on Thursday.