For the first time this preseason, Homegrown forward Aaron Horton trained with the Black & Gold on Tuesday. Horton spent his offseason traveling the globe between a mission trip in South Africa and trials with FK Sarajevo in Bosnia and Hammarby IF in Sweden.
Training with teams in Europe was a valuable experience for the 20-year-old forward.
"It was awesome just being able to get out and travel around the globe, playing with different clubs in Europe," Horton said. "It was a great experience. I had a lot of fun too. I think I gained experience on all levels."
For Horton, the differences in culture and soccer in Bosnia and Sweden took some getting used to compared the lifestyle he is accustomed to in Columbus.
"It's different.That's the best way I can put it," Horton explained. "Sarajevo was different from Sweden, Sweden is different from here. It's all different. The training was all good, but at the same time, it was very different. The style of play in every single country is different. It was just about adapting to the places I was at and how they play, how things work. All-in-all, it was good."
Upon his arrival back at the Crew's training ground in Obetz on Tuesday, Horton was welcomed with open arms by his teammates as he enters his third season with the Black & Gold.
"I'm happy to see everyone," he said. "Everyone here has welcomed me back warmly. I love these guys, I love my teammates. It was good to be around the coaches again, they were happy to see me back. It's good to be back."
During a busy weekend that consisted of two matches, and travel from Florida to North Carolina and from North Carolina to Columbus, several Crew players took to Twitter to honor their fallen teammate around the inaugural Kirk Urso Memorial Match. Even players who didn't get the chance to play alongside Urso like Dominic Oduro and Drew Beckie showed their respect.
Here are some of the highlights, 140 characters at a time:
— Ethan Finlay (@EthanFinlay13) February 24, 2013
Heading to North Carolina with my brothers to honor a teammate that was taken too soon. #KU15
— Josh Williams (@josh3williams) February 24, 2013
Urso was my roommate in residency, a hard worker, great player, and even better person. Looking forward to playing in his memory #crew96
— Ryan Finley (@Ryan_Finley9) February 24, 2013
— Aaron Schoenfeld (@aaronschoenfeld) February 24, 2013
It's your day bubs. Maybe I can hit a patented Urso bomb. Either way it's an honor 2 play in your memory. Miss u Kirk. Let's have fun 2day.
— Eric Gehrig (@eGehrig16) February 24, 2013
Just know you're not alone @kurso369 . We miss that witty funny humor you always had everyday with that outstanding hair and smile . So glad
— Justin Meram (@JustinMeram) February 24, 2013
I get to play today for you. We all love you and miss you so damn much! #KU15
— Justin Meram (@JustinMeram) February 24, 2013
— Tony Tchani (@TonyTchani23) February 24, 2013
— Dominic Oduro (@Freakyfast8) February 24, 2013
I know I gave up twitter for lent but I think The Lord allows a tweet for Kirk Urso, although I didn't know him, it's an honor to be here
— Drew Beckie (@DrewBeckie) February 24, 2013
Crew midfielder Wil Trapp and the United States begin their 2013 U-20 World Cup Qualifying campaign against Haiti on Monday night in the CONCACAF U-20 Championships in Puebla, Mexico. The Homegrown product from Gahanna, Ohio has been a mainstay in Head Coach Tab Ramos' camp leading up to the tournament, and figures to be an influential figure in the United States' midfield.
The U.S. features in Group A of the 12-team tournament with Haiti and Costa Rica as the top four nations will advance to the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey this summer.
Monday night's match against Haiti can be found on FOX Soccer Channel, and will be shown live at 6:30 p.m. ET.
While Jairo Arrieta will join the Crew's preseason camp in Orlando, Fla. in the coming days, another player has left the Black & Gold for International duty.
Homegrown rookie midfielder Wil Trapp left Columbus Thursday morning for Puebla, Mexico, the site of the 2013 CONCACAF U-20 Championship. Trapp has been a mainstay in the U.S. U-20 National Team's midfield over the last two years, as the Stars and Stripes hope to qualify for 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey this summer. The top four teams in Mexico will move on to the big stage in Turkey. The U.S. failed to qualify for the last World Cup in 2011.
"It's going to be big," Trapp said before leaving Columbus. "I'm excited just because the 20s as team last time did not qualify [for the World Cup]. We want to kind of make-up for that and do well and qualify for the World Cup. It's a huge stage. I just want to make it, big time."
Trapp spent 10 days with the U.S. U-20 National Team in Puebla in January to prepare for the altitude issues the team will face in the tournament before joining the Crew for its preseason trip to Bradenton, Fla. The United States has been placed in Group A of the tournament with Costa Rica and Haiti. Trapp and the U-20s will kick off play on February 18 against Haiti.
Crew striker Jairo Arrieta and Costa Rica will begin the Hexagonal round of 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying for the CONCACAF Region on Wednesday night against Panama at 9:30 p.m. ET. La Sele enters the match in Panama City fresh off winning the 2013 Copa Centroamericana where Arrieta won the tournament's Golden Boot award, tallying twice in group play.
Costa Rica's Heach Coach, Jorge Luís Pinto, wlll likely deploy Arrieta as a strike option off the bench as Real Betis' Joel Campbell and Real Salt Lake's Álvaro Saborío are expected to start up top for the Ticos.
Arrieta made his Senior Team debut in 2011 and has made nine caps for Costa Rica, scoring two goals for his country in the process. The striker is expected to re-join the Black & Gold in Orlando for preseason training later this week.
Without question, there is no team in Major League Soccer Crew fans despise quite like the Chicago Fire. When the Black & Gold makes a trade with the Fire like they did on Monday when Dilly Duka was swapped for Dominic Oduro, it adds more fuel to MLS's midwestern rivalry.
Crew Technical Director Brian Bliss isn't worried about the deal coming back to bite the Black & Gold. Rather, he welcomes trades within the Eastern Conference.
"You try not to do deals within your own conference, but I think also that's a misunderstood concept," Bliss explained Monday. "If you're not going to do deals within your own conference, you're eliminating potentially nine other teams to make a trade with. Why would you do that?
"Yeah, it's one thing if you're dealing guys on the DP level. You don't want guys like that going to a rival, but at the end of the day, you can't worry about that."
As for Oduro, who is playing for his fifth team since 2006, he's learned to treat games against former opponents as he would any other match. The Crew will play the Fire three times in 2013.
"One thing I've to come to learn in my experience in this League and with your old team's history is to not trash talk your former team or let them get in your head," the new Crew forward said. "You just have to stay calm and try to play the game as any other MLS game. I think it will be something to play against [Chicago].
"I think I'll just go out there and play my game and hopefully we'll come away with the W."
Pleased with the Crew's 2-1 win against the Chicago Fire on Wednesday, Robert Warzycha rewarded his team with a day of regeneration and relaxation at nearby Siesta Key Beach. The entire squad joined Strength and Conditioning Coach Brook Hamilton for a 15-minute run and stretch before enjoying America's best beach.
Some players soaked-up the sun while others played soccer tennis on volleyball nets, threw the football around or played frisbee.
"Everybody was really looking forward to getting out to the beach," Supplemental Draft pick Daniel Withrow said. "I know some guys were just striving to go this past week. Being so close and not getting a chance to go, it's been driving them crazy. To get all the guys together and go to the beach, but still get some work in and get a good jog in was good. A little fun in the sun never hurts.
"Anytime you can get out of the hotel and still keep it constructive is good"
The Crew will finish play in Bradenton Friday morning against the New York Red Bulls at 9:30 a.m. ET at IMG Academy. The match was previously scheduled to kick off at 11:00 a.m. ET.
The Black & Gold returned to training at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Tuesday morning with a light session ahead of Wednesday's friendly against the Chicago Fire. Head Coach Robert Warzycha will look for more stamina out of his squad against the Fire on Wednesday as it prepares for the MLS season to begin on March 2.
Brook Hamilton (above), the Crew's Strength and Conditioning Coach, is the man in charge of making sure each player's fitness in on par.
"While we're here, we're trying to get established a good base that we started in Columbus," Hamilton explained Tuesday. "With the multiple games we have here, it's enabled us to establish some good game fitness."
"In between those games, we're looking at threshold training and pushing the players' threshold up, which is obviously increasing their overall fitness level," Hamilton added. "We're also focusing on a lot of things like corrective nature and strengthening nature in our off-time when we're in the gym and off the field."
With fitness and condition being a crucial part of preseason training, Warzycha is relying on Hamilton to get his players match ready.
"The players know that physiologically, [Hamilton] puts all the programs together and makes sure the guys do enough work and get the rest they need," Warzycha said. "We as the coaches, we push the players but Brook is the one sometimes that puts the foot on the gas pedal. He monitors everything and makes sure we're doing the right things [in training]."
Hamilton is in his second season with the Crew after serving as a strength coach for IMG Academy, where he worked with athletes in a variety of sports, including current and aspiring MLS, NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL players; the Guangdong Winnerway Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association and the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers of NASL.
Hamilton brings an expertise of soccer-specific strength training to the Crew.
"You always have to address the sport by its individual needs and necessities," Hamilton said. "With soccer and the amount of ball striking the players do, everything has to do with increasing the odds of what we're trying to get switched over and correct."
The Black & Gold took Tuesday afternoon off to prepare for Wednesday morning's match against Chicago. The Crew kicks off against the Fire at 11:00 a.m. ET at IMG Academy. You can stream all of the action right here on TheCrew.com.
During the grind of preseason, a break is in order every now and then. Robert Warzycha gave his team Monday morning off to rest and prepare for Monday's late afternoon training.
Second year midfielder Kevan George was grateful to his head coach for allowing the players a little time to relax.
"This morning was the best thing since sliced bread," George joked. "We just stayed in, ate a late breakfast and played FIFA with the guys. It was really nice."
The Crew returned to IMG Academy in the afternoon where Warzycha and his staff put the team through possession and movement drills before ending the practice with some small-sided scrimmaging.
After a two month offseason, the players' bodies are still adjusting to workload.
"At this point in the preseason, it's tough on the legs because the [artificial] turf took a toll on us," George said. "Right now we're just bursting through the barriers and trying to get fit for next season."
Almost as soon as the ink dried on his newly signed contract with the Crew, Agustín Viana arrived in Bradenton to meet his new team on Monday. Viana jogged and did crunches on the side at the team's afternoon training session following is arrival from Uruguay.
Robert Warzycha believes Viana will be an important ingredient in the Crew's plan for success in 2013, bringing competition at the leftback position with fellow new signing Tyson Wahl.
"We've had him on our radar for quite a bit, to be honest," Warzycha said. "He's a good leftback, he goes up and down, he's a box-to-box player. He works hard and I think he will fit perfectly on our team."
Viana can also play in central midfield providing another option with Danny O'Rourke, Tony Tchani, Kevan George and Wil Trapp.
"[Viana] can be a good offensive central midfielder, he can play in the middle," Warzycha explained. "He can play both positions, but we'll see what he can bring. If he helps in the back, great. If he helps in the middle, that's great too. We have a good player."
ARRIETA CALLED UP
Fresh on the heels of winning the Golden Boot at the Copa Centroamericana on Sunday, Crew striker Jairo Arrieta was called upon once again for Costa Rican National Team duty as La Sele begins the Hexagonal round of 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying against Panama on February 6.
Though Robert Warzycha wishes his potent striker could be in Bradenton with the Black & Gold, the Head Coach is fully supportive of Arrieta's National Team duties.
"I am very pleased that he is playing for his National Team," Warzycha said on Monday. "That is why people play soccer, to have some recognition. It's great that his country has recognized his performance and he's with the National Team, but as a coach I would like him to be here and work on the things we have to work on and help the team get better. But I'm very, very happy for him and I support him one hundred-percent with the National Team."
The Crew skipper knows a few things about balancing priorities between club and country. As a player, Warzycha made 47 appearances for Poland.
"You play for your club to get called to the National Team because that's a great honor to represent as many millions of people that might live in your entire country," Warzycha explained. "If you think about it, there are only 11 chosen people that step on the field at once to represent a country. It's a great honor."
Arrieta will likely re-join the Crew in Orlando following Costa Rica's match against Panama.
With two goals in group play, Crew striker Jairo Arrieta claimed the Golden Boot award at the 2013 Copa Centroamericana as Costa Rica beat Honduras 1-0 in the tournament Final on Sunday. Though Arrieta only saw a minute of play against Honduras, the Costa Rican's tallies against Belize and Guatemala were enough to lead the tournament in scoring.
Costa Rica kicks off play in the Hexagonal round of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying against Panama on February 6, though its unclear at this time whether or not Arrieta will be called up for that match.