After spending the summer playing with the United States U-15 and U-17 National Teams, Crew Soccer Academy standout Benny Swanson has accepted an offer to participate in the US U-17 Residency program in Bradenton, Florida.
The 15-year-old Grove City native hopes his decision will help him secure a spot in next year's U-17 World Cup.
"It's a great opportunity. It was kind of hard to pass up," Swanson said. "The [FIFA U-17] World Cup is next year in Dubai. I would like to make that roster, hopefully. If I don't, I hope I just learn every day in training in that environment with that pro mentality."
"It's great for our organization," Crew Technical Director Brian Bliss said. "Obviously it's a little bit premature to be speaking about Benny as a future pro for the club, but he's on the right track. It gives credibility to our organization on the youth side as to what we're doing."
Bliss says residency can only help Swanson's promising skill set.
"Right now, he's only getting three or four days of training each week, he's going to get five or six days each week training with the top players in the country at his age [in Bradenton]." Bliss explained. "He's got the ability to break down players off of the dribble and create on his own. He works for the good of the team in terms of being a team player. He's got an eye for the pass and can deliver it. He's got a multitude of skills and being in that environment for the next year, it's going to make him a better player."
The young midfielder's drive and skill set reminds Bliss of a certain US Men's National Team mainstay.
"He's got a lot of things Michael Bradley had," Bliss said. "Bradley grew physically really quick at the end, but he was also undersized. [Bradley] had the ability to dribble, pass, create, and had the same attitude and hunger for the game that Benny has. There are some comparisons. They may be unfair because Michael is a full national team player and I don't want to put pressure on [Swanson], but he's got a lot of this same [skills]."
Being in the same sentence with Bradley and others who attended the U-17 Residencty previously such as Landon Donovan, Brek Shea, and Eddie Gaven is still surreal Swanson says, but he remains determined to one day don the Black & Gold as a professional.
"It's kind of surreal, but I've been working hard. That's where hard work will get you," Swanson said. "The Crew has helped me a lot to progress as a player and as a person."
"[Playing professionally for the Crew] would be a dream come true," he finished.
Admittedly, Houston hasn't been my favorite city I've visited with the Crew this season. It's extremely hot and humid, there's nothing to do around the team hotel, and nearly every restraunt downtown is closed on Sunday.
However, the Dynamo's new BBVA Compass Stadium has made up for the misfortunes mentioned above.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the stadium: there's a lot of orange in this place.
Outside the press box, images of various Houston Chronicle front pages over the past few years pay homage to Dynamo's short time in Houston.
A Dynamo legend overlooks the entrance to every lower-level section. For example, here's Brian Ching at the entryway to Section 125.
Here's the view from the north end of the stadium, looking toward the stage area. The dimensions of the field at BBVA Compass Stadium are 70 yards x 115 yards to suit the Dynamo's style of play and execution on set pieces. The MLS preference for pitch size is 75 yards x 120 yards.
In the southwest corner of the stadium is where the Dynamo supporters groups sit. No, Crew fans, it's not as big as the Nordecke.
Finally, and most importantly, the Crew's Equipment Manager Rusty Wummel was a happy camper with the spacey visiting locker room.
The wait is over, Crew fans.
Designated Player Federico Higuaín arrived in Columbus Wednesday morning from Argentina. The forward will be introduced Thursday at 10AM EST right here on TheCrew.com via live stream.
Check back later for more details.
Federico Higuaín's move to Columbus was halted by a snag in the Argentine immigration office, but the striker should be in Black & Yellow soon Technical Director Brian Bliss said this afternoon.
"According to what the immigration people have told us, the stamp has been placed into [Higuaín's] passport," Bliss explained. "Federico is en route to pick it up either today or early tomorrow morning. Once he gets the passport, Tucker [Walther, the Crew's Director of Team Operations] will book his ticket [to Columbus]."
Higuaín will not be available for Wednesday's match against the LA Galaxy, but Sunday's match in Houston could be a possibility.
The Crew Soccer Academy's U17 squad finished in third place of the 2012 Generation Adidas Cup Thursday in Tukwila, Washington. The U17s topped the San Jose Earthquakes side 3-2 behind Benny Swanson's game-winner.
Hilliard native Nathan Kohl won the Golden Boot at the tournament, scoring six goals in all.
The squad was made up of players born in 95 and 96 from CSA, CSA Wolves, Challenger Crew Juniors and Grand Rapids Crew Juniors:
Matthew Appel (Canal Winchester, OH) Crew Soccer Academy
William Bayemi (Canal Winchester, OH) Crew Soccer Academy
Aiden Bean (Powell, OH) Crew Soccer Academy
Brady Blackwell (Dublin, OH) Crew Soccer Academy
Sam Brown (Ann Arbor, MI) Crew Soccer Academy Wolves
Julian Castro (Lorain, OH) Challenger Crew Juniors
Georges Daoud (Columbus, OH) Crew Soccer Academy
Dominic Grida (North Royalton, OH) Challenger Crew Juniors
Carter Grimm (Columbus, OH) Crew Soccer Academy
Noah Hutchins (Columbus, OH) Crew Soccer Academy
Tyler Kidwell (Dublin, OH) Crew Soccer Academy
Nathan Kohl (Hilliard, OH) Crew Soccer Academy
Andrew Lewis (Rockford, MI) Grand Rapids Crew Juniors
Andrew McKelvey (Dublin, OH) Crew Soccer Academy
Charlie Reymann (Worthington, OH) Crew Soccer Academy
Carter Richardson (Dublin, OH) Crew Soccer Academy
John Schuman (Columbus, OH) Crew Soccer Academy
Ryan Scott (Grand Rapids, MI) Grand Rapids Crew Juniors
Benjamin Swanson (Grove City, OH) Crew Soccer Academy
Blake Townes (Canton, MI) Crew Soccer Academy Wolves
To help pay tribute to Kirk Urso, Crew veterans Eddie Gaven and Andy Gruenebaum were kind enough to share their memories of their fallen teammate.
Eddie Gaven: "One of my fondest memories of Kirk was down in Florida during preseason this year. We had some down time in between training sessions, and so Andy and I invited him over to our room to teach him how to play Settlers of Catan, a nerdy board game we sometimes play. I figured it'd take him a while to learn and so I was expecting to get a few easy victories against him. But he picked it up incredibly fast -- so fast actually, that he beat us the first two games! I remember thinking then, that there was something special about this kid. And indeed, there was. He was everything you could ask for in a teammate -- honest, hard-working, and humble. On the field, I always wanted him on my team during practice, and off the field, I always enjoyed his company, his sense of humor, and his infectious positive attitude. I will miss him as my teammate for sure. But I'll miss him even more as my friend."
Andy Gruenebaum: "From day one of preseason, it was apparent that Kirk was tailor made for our locker room. It is very rare for a rookie to come into a professional environment and put their stamp on the clubhouse, both personality and playing wise. I can speak volumes about the characters of all of our rookie class this year, but Kirk seemed to embody everything that a friend would want, and a franchise could build upon. Even with an injury setback, Kirk showed up everyday with a smile on his face, and a positive demeanor. I have never had the privilege of meeting Kirk's family, however in my blessed time around Kirk, it is obvious that he had a wonderful upbringing and support group in his friends and family that helped shape him into the wonderful person that he was!"
A special thank you to Eddie and Andy for sharing these memories of Kirk during this difficult time.
Major League Soccer has granted the Crew permission to wear a patch on the club's uniforms to memorialize Kirk Urso, who passed away suddenly on August 5.
"We kept (the design) within the style and tradition that we have established at the club in honoring those that have passed," team equipment manager Rusty Wummel explained. "We have two styles. The black will be used on the home kits and the gold will be used on the secondary kits, placement is above the Adidas logo."
The Crew hopes the patches will be ready in time for Wednesday's match against the LA Galaxy.
Check out the mock-up below:
Once again, Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum has been nominated for Save of the Week by MLSsoccer.com. This week's nomination comes from the 58th minute of Saturday's match against D.C. United when Gruenebaum saved Chris Pontius' breakaway shot from close range to help keep the Crew within a goal of United.
Vote for Gruenebaum here.
Real Madrid forward Gonzalo Higuaín, brother of newly-signed Designated Player Federico Higuaín, took the time to talk to MLSsoccer.com while Los Blancos tour the U.S. ahead of their upcoming La Liga campaign. Skip ahead to the 1:30 mark where Gonzalo is asked about his older brother coming to MLS (translation below).
Have you had the chance to talk to your brother Federico Higuain? He was recently signed by an MLS team, the Columbus Crew. Have you had a chance to talk to him about this chance that he has in the USA? And what is your personal opinion of soccer here?
Yes, I talked to him. He asked me about the US, the city I’m in right now, the team we are playing. He wants to know because it’s a new league for him. I am very happy because it’s a change for good, and I hope he can do things the best way. I saw him very excited, I hope things go well for him because if he’s doing well, so are we (referring to his family).
Love it or hate it, no one can argue that RFK Stadium doesn't hold a special place in Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer history.
As the League's only stadium that can boast that it's been used since MLS's infancy in 1996, no other site in MLS can boast that it has held World Cup matches for both men and women, 21 U.S. Men's National Team matches, three MLS Cup Finals, and one MLS All-Star Game. Built for football and baseball, RFK stadium has also hosted boxing, bowl games, and various concerts.
RFK Stadium also holds a special place in my heart, because it's where I got my start in MLS as an intern for D.C. United in the summer of 2011. Who knows, without my experience with D.C. United last summer, I might not be writing the article for the Crew right now.
But fear not, Crew fans. In the seven matches in which I worked for D.C. last summer, Ben Olsen's team went 0-4-3 at RFK Stadium. In addition, I traveled to Chicago to see the Black-and-Red draw the Fire 1-1 and drove to my now-home of Crew Stadium to see United's playoff hopes dashed by Eddie Gaven's diving header on October 2, 2011 to go on top of July 21's 1-0 victory. And while the Black & Gold hasn't been wildly successful at RFK-- winning only six times in MLS's 17 year history-- the Crew has taken nine points from its last five matches at the historic stadium in D.C.
Though it is great for MLS that D.C. United may soon get a new stadium in The District within the next few years, you have to appreciate the only stadium that was in use when the league started in 1996 still going strong today. (Even though you may run into cockroaches, raccons, and various other critters in the field-level tunnels.)