COLUMBUS, Ohio – The new leaders of the Crew will begin to emerge Thursday when camp opens at the SuperKick/TeamZone indoor facility in suburban Lewis Center.
Returning players such as Eddie Gaven, William Hesmer, Chad Marshall, Danny O'Rourke and Robbie Rogers are expected to fill the leadership void left by the departures of Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Brian Carroll, Duncan Oughton, Gino Padula and captain Frankie Hejduk.
“Some of them have no choice because the younger players are going to look up to them,” said coach Robert Warzycha. “Many are 25, 26, and have four, five, six years in the league already. They are going to have to be the leaders.”
Warzycha, who enters his third full season on the job, isn’t as concerned about the culture of the locker room as technical director Brian Bliss, who has questioned it several times in the offseason.
Last week, Bliss told MLSsoccer.com that he “would enjoy a little bit more streakiness or nastiness in the locker room because maybe there was too much, ‘Hey, you’re my buddy and forget that. We’re cool.’”
That elicited a response via Twitter from Rogers, who wrote, “Sick of hearing that our locker room was too soft last year!”
Warzycha agreed with Rogers – to a point.
“The locker room was very good,” the coach said. “The players were trying to win a championship and we were very close. The past two years, we lost in the first round of the playoffs with a team that actually won a championship [in 2008].
“The locker was almost perfect,” Warzycha added. “That’s a thing of us coaches sending a message – you can be negative and yell at people or give them ownership. That’s what we did. We gave them ownership.”
However, he felt something was lacking in the postseason when the Crew lost to eventual champions Colorado.
“Everything was fine, just maybe in the playoffs we needed somebody to take a bigger stride,” he said. “I felt we were missing that person that could take the extra step. That’s why we made the changes. We think the changes are good. We are a better team.”
ON HOLD – Forward Jeff Cunningham remains unsigned since his rights were acquired from FC Dallas in the MLS Re-Entry Draft on Dec. 15. Bliss said the league added a bonus to the offer that would not affect the salary cap but has not heard back from Cunningham.
Meanwhile, midfielder Leandre Griffit signed a new contract Wednesday.
CAMPING – The Crew will train through Jan. 28 in Lewis Center before heading to Phoenix from Jan. 29 to Feb. 18., where they will have a full slate of preseason games against MLS teams.
The first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals against Real Salt Lake is on Feb. 22 in Crew Stadium. The return match is March 1 in Sandy, Utah.
Then it’s off to Atlanta from March 4-12 for two games against New England and a tilt with Houston.