The Crew's impending signing of Ben Swanson will be the ninth all-time Homegrown Player signing in club history. With many of the Homegrown signings rising through the ranks together, there is a feeling of community and pride among the group to represent Columbus within MLS while also being from the region.
That's true for Crew defender Ross Friedman, who signed with the Black & Gold as a Homegrown Player prior to the 2014 campaign. The Harvard graduate said he couldn't be more excited for his new fellow Homegrown teammate in Swanson.
"Ben is one of those kids that people have known about since a young age," said Friedman. "I remember watching him when he was roughly 12, playing up with the 16s. He's one of those kids that gets it at a young age. I've known him for years. He's a great player; up here in his head, he gets it at the first-team level. He's a really special player, a great kid and a hard worker. I'm excited for him and he's obviously extremely excited."
Friedman pointed out that the Homegrown process is aligned perfectly with one of the Crew's new brand pillars of being authentically Columbus, as did President of Business Operations Andy Loughnane. It's all part of the bigger mission to grow the game of soccer and to inspire future generations of players in the Arch City.
"When people from Columbus before used to go to Crew games, they would see someone from California, someone from Maine, wherever, and they couldn't much relate," said Friedman. "Now, when they go to a Crew game, they can say 'oh, wow, that kid went to my high school.' That really expands the youth program. There's a clear ladder to the First Team. That's really important to motivate kids and create a professional environment.
"From the U-9 level going up to the pros, there's a chain of levels, which is really, really cool. For me, seeing these kids and talking to them, a lot of Bexley kids are in the Crew soccer program and they love to talk to us about our experiences at the youth level and how we transition from youth to academy, academy to college, college to pro. It's cool to be able to share that and connect with them; because you're from the same city and same background, you understand the same things."
Friedman spent four seasons at Harvard as part of his development process. Swanson, set to sign with the Crew at age 17, is skipping the college level and becoming a professional quite early in his development arc.
Friedman had nothing but praise for his newest teammate, saying that if anyone is ready to make the early jump to the professional ranks, it's Swanson.
"I really see [Swanson] as very similar to Wil Trapp," said Friedman. "His feet are unbelievable, he understands in possession drills where to bounce the ball, where to be moving, how to get into good pockets. A lot of kids that age don't get it. For him, it's something that he gets up here in his head. Over time, as he gets bigger, faster and stronger, it's going to be amazing.
"Just as Wil has progressed tremendously in the past year, I foresee the same with Benny."