After Aaron Schoenfeld's latest goal for the Dayton Dutch Lions – which came as part of a hat-trick – the comparisons began to flow. The Crew striker, on-loan in USL-PRO, has notched 12 goals in 18 matches at that level. That total puts him three shy of the all-time USL-PRO record, set last season by Dom Dwyer and Jose Angulo.
Dwyer, of course, is a top-three goal-scorer in MLS this season. Schoenfeld, who was rewarded for his work by coming back to Columbus to train with the Crew this week, is well aware of Dwyer's developmental path.
"I think for every MLS player that gets put on loan, especially as an attacker, every coach pretty much says 'Do what Dom Dwyer did. Try to replicate what he did,'" said Schoenfeld. "I think everyone in the country saw what he did, even though it was in USL. Some guys don't check it, but everyone knows what he's done down there."
Schoenfeld's tear for Dayton has given the Crew hope that maybe the player nicknamed "Big Celery" can be the next Dom Dwyer. The forward's time with the Dutch Lions has given him a resurgence of sorts, and training with the Crew gives him hope that he can contribute for the big club in the near future.
"I feel like I'm in form right now and I'm finding the back of the net. It's probably the first time in my professional career that I'm consistently finding the back of the net, so I'm excited to be back up here training for now and we'll see what happens."
Schoenfeld's case is a great example of the relationship between the Crew and the Dutch Lions working as it's intended – "that's what we want the relationship to be: guys go there, they perform, they come back," said Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. Opportunities for playing time and confidence are just two of the many benefits of the loan deal, according to Schoenfeld.
"Confidence comes with playing consistently," said Schoenfeld. "Obviously, when you get 90 [minutes] every week and things are going your way, it's easy to find confidence."
Schoenfeld had one goal in 19 MLS matches prior to this season. An additional benefit to the loan arrangement has been the ability for him to put frustration behind and concentrate on simply improving as a player.
"The level between USL and MLS is a little different, but playing week in and week out – a lot of guys don't start every game, you know what I mean? It's like being in college again where you can play over and over and over and not have to worry about someone breathing down your neck every week. If you have a bad week of training, you don't have to worry about that. You just focus on the things you need to do to get better."
Now that Schoenfeld is back to training with the Crew, his goal is to contribute at the MLS level.
"We'll see what Gregg and [the coaches] have in mind. Obviously I want to play. Three years in, I feel like the only way I'm going to get better is playing the game now. Hopefully, Gregg and them will see something and hopefully they'll play me, but if not, I'm fine getting minutes in Dayton. Either way, hopefully I'll be ready to contribute."