When I first have the opportunity to speak with a new Crew SC signing, one of the first questions I'll always ask is "what attracted you to Columbus and why Crew SC?"
Professional soccer players have tons of options, so I find it fascinating to learn what attracted any given player to our club and our city. I also find it fascinating that, with almost all of Gregg Berhalter's recent signings, the answer has been exactly the same: Berhalter's word and the system that he plays.
That's the case for the newest member of Crew SC, Icelander Kristinn Steindorsson, a 24-year-old attacking winger who joins the club from Halmstads BK in Sweden. Steindorsson was familiar with Berhalter through the Crew SC boss' experience coaching in Sweden.
"There was an interest from MLS and Columbus," said Steindorsson. "My agent told me the name of the coach and I recognized it was Gregg, who had been coaching in Sweden two years ago when I was playing there. He spoke to me as well, he called me up and we spoke about the team and his ideas, how he likes to play and how I would fit in and stuff like that.
"After that you could say I was really interested in going to Columbus."
Like Mohammed Saeid before him, Steindorsson enjoys to play the exact style of soccer that Berhalter employs and that's why the midfielder believes he's a perfect fit to help Crew SC.
"That's the type of play I like. I want to have the ball on the ground, I want to make one-twos, short passes and keep possession," said Steindorsson. "I want to take the ball into the field and make passes and create goals from there, and of course try to score some goals. It's a perfect fit for me."
Steindorsson comes to Crew SC from a successful playing career in his native Iceland, where he won the Icelandic Cup in 2009 and the Urvalsdeild league title in 2010. He then moved to Sweden, where he helped Halmstads BK earn promotion from the Superrettan to the Allsvenskan after his first season.
The 24-year-old also comes to Crew SC with knowledge of some of its existing players: he spent a week on trial with Danish club Nordsjælland during the same time that Michael Parkhurst plied his trade there, he's familar with Emanuel Pogatetz through the defender's time in England and Germany, and he personally knows Saeid through the two of them playing in Sweden together. Although Saeid has only physically been in Columbus for a few weeks, he called Steindorsson and gave him positive feedback about the club as the Icelander was making his decision.
"[Saeid] told me that I wouldn't regret it," said Steindorsson. "So far he has had an amazing time and a great experience so far. He only had positive things to say."
Winning the Urvalsdeild title gave Steindorsson and his club Breidablik passage to the UEFA Champions League Second Qualifying Round, where the new Crew SC winger started both matches in a two-legged series against Rosenborg and even scored a goal in European soccer's highest level of competition.
"I think it's a dream for everybody who's played football in general to compete in those games, even though it was just a qualifying round," said Steindorsson on the experience of playing UEFA Champions League soccer. "It was fun to match yourself against a team [at that level]. We had a tough time, but it was a nice experience to see how you do when you go up against those better players. You can see where you stand and gauge everything."
Steindorsson is currently on vacation in his native Iceland but plans to return to Sweden soon to gather his belongings and make the move to America and MLS, a league that he believes is on the rise and will help him further develop as a player.
"I think it's a high level. In Europe, it is difficult to follow the games because of the time difference, so we can't watch as many games as maybe we'd like, but I've gotten some Columbus games sent to me and I've watched them a little bit. It's a growing league with more and more players and big names moving to MLS. I'm really excited and I think it's a great next step for me. I'm confident that I will improve my game by taking this step."