MLS ball at 2016 SuperDraft
Geoff Burke / USA Today Sports Images

Five talents chasing one dream

“They’re going to have to compete,” says Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. “As our team gets better and better, it becomes more difficult for these players to make an immediate impact, so it’s going to be tough. The preseason’s going to be eye-opening for some of these guys, but we believe in them.”

Columbus selected five young players in the first three rounds of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft: Rodrigo Saravia (19th overall), Chase Minter (21st), Kyle Parker (31st), Marshall Hollingsworth (41st) and Vincent Cicciarelli (60th). While Saravia and Minter showcase their talents in midfield, Crew SC selected three forwards with its remaining picks.

“We added some depth and we added some players with interesting potential,” Berhalter says. “Overall, I think it was a great draft. The level of play was, in my eyes, better than last year, and the depth of this group is pretty good.”

With depth a strong suit for Crew SC in 2015 and Kei Kamara now the sole striker on Columbus’ current roster, the stage is set for more talent to join him up top. It all begins on Friday, January 22 with entrance physicals and testing before the team heads to Lakewood Ranch, Florida for its first preseason training camp.

  • Check out Crew SC’s full 2016 preseason schedule here.

“I’m a very coachable, very easy person to deal with,” Hollingsworth says. “If a coach really believes in me and gives me a shot, and tells me what he wants done, I will do it. Whatever he wants is the best.”

The striker started 85 of his 92 appearances in his career at Wheaton College, scoring 45 goals and serving 21 assists. With a standout 22-goal senior season, Hollingsworth says he makes the most of the opportunities he’s given.

Berhalter and the rest of the technical staff had the opportunity to witness the 22-year-old’s work ethic at Crew SC’s College Combine at MAPFRE Stadium.

“I think they saw my engine,” Hollingsworth says. “I really like to play box-to-box, I like to defend as well as I like to attack.”

Striker Vincent Cicciarelli shares a similar mentality as Hollingsworth, emphasizing wearing defenders down and doing the dirty work, allowing his teammates to score.

“I’m big, powerful, explosive and fast,” he says. “I might not put in 25 goals in a season, but I do a good job at wearing down centerbacks and defenders and running at them and going at them and kind of making way for the more technical and flashy players to really capitalize later on in the game.”

Beginning his career at the University of Notre Dame and completing his final season at the University of St. Louis, Cicciarelli has experienced different programs, coaching styles and success. He helped Notre Dame to its first national championship in 2013 before transferring to St. Louis, where he notched five goals and two assists in 15 matches.

“Both are very storied programs and being able to bring the first national championship to Notre Dame, and knowing the ingredients that were put into that season to achieve the ultimate goal, I think is something I can carry with me to any level of soccer because I know what it takes to really be a part of a team and a part of something special.

“And then just being exposed to two completely different coaching philosophies, taking in every practice and training session, just trying to grasp everything they’re teaching is going to be insurmountable and the knowledge is going to help take me to the next level, hopefully.”

Cicciarelli acknowledges the importance of chemistry for a team’s success and says he’s ready to go to work in the hopes of achieving his ultimate goal of playing professionally.

“I’ve kind of been all over the place and to finally have a dream somewhat realized is hard to put into words, but I also know this is just the beginning and there’s still a long way to go to achieve the ultimate goal.”

Crew SC’s third forward drafted this year, Kyle Parker, spent his college days at UNC Charlotte. A two-time Conference USA Offensive MVP, the 22-year-old scored a season-best 12 goals his senior year, finishing his career with 34 goals and 15 assists.

Parker says he likes to combine with the players around him and creating opportunities for his teammates is just as important as any goal or assist he may deliver.

“My movement, I believe, helps put me in a good scoring position and opens up space for the players around me, which I like to play with; so that’s how I see myself fitting in.”

Born in Columbus, Parker says Crew SC was a top choice heading into the SuperDraft and he hopes to learn from its current players.

“It’s some great players, obviously, getting called up to the national team and stuff, and it’s players you can learn from and players you want to try to be able to fit in with,” he says. “At the same time, it’s also tough competition out there because they are a very good team and they have a strong roster; so you have to come in and work hard if you want to be able to get in there, and that’s what I plan to do.”

Chase Minter says he’s also looking forward to learning from the boys in Black & Gold, players and coaches alike, to develop his talents as fast as possible.

“When I was looking around the League, this is the by far the best setup for me to become the best possible player I can be and try and help this team continue its already blossoming success,” he says.

The Cal Poly midfielder recorded 16 goals and 21 assists in his 77 career appearances (67 starts), tying him for the most assists all-time in Mustang history. Minter attributes his collegiate success to his technical ability and movement off the ball.

“I like to try and concentrate on not only what am I doing when I have the ball, but also what I’m doing without the ball—where I’m positioning myself, finding space, things like that,” he says. “Other than that, I’m generally described as a quicker player with a clean touch.”

Rodrigo Saravia can vouch for that as the two of them met at a college combine in Seattle. Laughing as he says it, Minter mentions telling Berhalter he thought Saravia was the best player at the 2016 adidas MLS Player Combine. Needless to say, the two players were pleased to be drafted by the same club, just two picks apart.

It could be because of their similar playing style and how it fits with Columbus.

“The way they play, they explained it to me a couple days ago and they convinced me with that,” Saravia says. “I just wanted to be here, with the Crew, because the style they have is awesome.”

Favoring possession and attacking, Saravia started all but two of his 67 appearances at Florida Gulf Coast University. Born and raised in Guatemala City, he moved to the U.S. in 2012 to pursue his dream of playing soccer. Last season, Saravia was named the Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year and was awarded First Team All-Atlantic Sun Conference for the second consecutive season.  

“I’m a really technical guy and intelligent,” he says. “I play defensive mid and I think I fit the team because they like to keep the ball enough. They don’t like to throw it away.”

Searching for words to describe his joy of being selected by the Black & Gold, Saravia says, “It’s probably the best day of my life. I’m just so happy to be on a good team—the best team of the League.”

All five of these young men will head to training camp on Saturday, hoping to achieve the communal dream of earning a roster spot and beginning a professional career with Columbus Crew SC. 

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