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kirk urso

07 February 8:28 am

Back in Bradenton! It has been about four years since I have been here,  the last time being in 2007 when I was in preparation for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup. Since then, not much has changed about Bradenton. It is still home to Shorewalk Apartments, IMG, and good ole Publix grocery store. Being in an environment that I am a bit familiar with has certainly helped during this transition from being a collegiate student-athlete to becoming a professional athlete. Couple that with the dynamic and welcoming personalities on the team, as well as a good mix of young guys and veterans, and I would say that overall the transition has been smooth and very enjoyable. On the field, there haven't been many surprises in regards to competitiveness and talent level. Everyone puts in a solid effort and brings their best every single day and being in this type of environment has allowed me to improve as a player and also learn certain nuances about the game.

Off the field, the guys have been very welcoming. Last week, Eddie Gaven and Andy Gruenebaum welcomed Ethan Finlay and I to a game of Settlers (of Catan). I had never heard of this game, but after playing two games, I think it might be one of my favorites. We played the first game open hand so that Ethan and I could learn. The second game was not open hand and I ended up leaving that night 2-0. Oddly enough, I have not been invited back to play a game of Settlers. The competition off the field continued as Rich Balchan and I faced Eddie Gaven and Ethan in a game of shuffleboard. We took the lead late after being down 60 points, but unfortunately we were unable to hold on to the lead as Eddie and Ethan came back again. Competition seems to be a part of everyone's genes here at the Crew, which is really no surprise, considering that everyone is making a career out of a very competitive game. The most recent off-the-field competition that I found myself in was with Justin Meram in a game of Fifa 12. I am still getting used to the small television that we are using here at Shorewalk, so I will not comment on what the series is, but if anyone is that interested to know, Justin loves to tweet about his victories. In closing, preseason so far has been a lot of work, but I am enjoying every minute of it. I am very pleased to have been drafted by the Columbus Crew and I am looking forward to facing our first opponent in the Swedish club Malmo this Wednesday.