Ahead of qualifying for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team Head Coach Andi Herzog has selected 28 players for a College Identification camp in Carson, California. Crew SC Academy alum Alex Crognale is one of those collegiate talents participating in the training camp from August 5 to 8.
“It’s a great honor to be considered one of the top guys in college soccer right now,” Crognale says. “I am excited to head out there and show my stuff to the Under-23 staff.”
A junior at the University of Maryland, Crognale appeared in 20 matches last season, posting 16 starts for the Terps. The 6-foot-5 centerback notched one assist and a game-winning goal during his sophomore year. He will make his first appearance at a national team camp this week.
“To see what that kind of environment is like, to see what the trainings are like there compared to here in Maryland or with the first team in Columbus, I am just excited to see that,” Crognale says.
The Gahanna, Ohio native says he was caught by surprise when he got the call-up. But for his former high school teammate, Crew SC midfielder Wil Trapp, it was just a matter of time.
“I have known Alex for a long time. I couldn’t be happier for him,” Trapp says. “He’s put in a ton of work and he’s grown immensely through his time at Maryland and his time with the Crew SC Academy. He fully deserves the opportunity.”
Trapp and Crognale have known each other since they were 10 years old and become close friends over the years.
“Seeing him go to the national team camps, go to Akron and now play with Columbus, he’s been someone I look up to and look to for advice on different things,” Crognale says, “whether it’d be soccer or whether it’d be off the field.”
Just like Trapp, Crognale is a product of the Crew SC Academy. The 20-year-old says the Academy has played an important role in his development as a player and person.
“I don’t think I would be anywhere near where I am today without the training, the coaches, all the things they have put in place,” Crognale says. “Once I was put in that environment, and shown how the professionals do it, and the way trainings ought to be, and the environment they are in, it really changed my mindset on what I wanted to do with soccer.”
Over the years, Crognale has gone from Academy player to one of the most promising centerbacks in college soccer. Despite his big frame, the defender is very technical on the ball and prides himself on his ability to play out the back and use his feet to his advantage.
U-23 coach Herzog is not the only one who has taken note. Columbus Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter has been following Crognale’s development.
“It’s been great watching Alex develop over the last couple of years,” Berhalter says. “He’s been making a big impact at the University of Maryland. For him to participate in our college program and for us to be able to keep tabs on his progress has been an important step in charting his individual development.”
Where that development will take Crognale remains to be seen. Like any other young soccer player with aspirations of becoming a professional, Crognale dreams of representing his country.
“Obviously it is a dream of mine to be on that Olympic team,” he says. “But right now I am just focusing on getting myself ready for camp, trying to go out there and show them that I am a good player and that I have the potential to play at that level, and hopefully they see that as well.”