Crew Technical Director and United States U-20 Men's National Team assistant coach Brian Bliss and Crew Soccer Academy product Wil Trapp left Columbus on Monday for the 2012 Milk Cup in Northern Ireland. The U-20s will train at Liverpool FC's facilities this week before their opening match on Saturday against defending champions Denmark. After finishing in third place last year, Trapp feels the U-20s are poised to make a run at the title in 2012.
"I'm pretty excited," the Akron midfielder said last week. "We've got a good group going. I think with the team we have, we can make a good run at the final."
"The level of competition is good," Bliss added. "It's still, from those countries and the U.S. as well, the preparatory phase leading up to the next cycle for the (FIFA U-20 World Cup) qualifying period. So it's a good opportunity for us to get into Europe and play some quality European teams to measure ourselves and see where we're at. We're looking forward to it. We've been invited to that tournament for a number of years and we've done well in the past there. I think we have the same expectations this time around."
Trapp has split his time between this summer between the U-20 National Team, training with the Crew, and playing with Bliss and the Crew Juniors Super-20s.
"I've been playing a lot of high quality games, training with the Crew as well has been helping me a lot," Trapp said of his progression in 2012. "Just working on speed of play, it's gotten a lot faster. My range of passing as well. I think playing with the National Team, as well as training (with the Crew), has really pushed me to the next level a little bit more."
"(Trapp) brings the same stuff to the table every time," Bliss complimented the Gahanna native. "He brings a good attitude, professionalism, he knows his role, and he's a leader when he's on the field. Organizing, he's generally in possession of the ball, and guys look to him for that stuff whether it's with (the Crew) or the U-20s."
The U-20 National Team will compete against Chile, Denmark, Mexico, Turkey, and host Northern Ireland at the Milk Cup.
Ahead of Buck-a-Beer, Buck-a-Brat Night, Duncan Oughton previews the Crew vs. Sporting Kansas City.
Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum continues to garner accolades for the stellar season he is having. Most recently, Gruenebaum was tabbed as the goalkeeper in Soccer America’s Midseason Best XI. According to the famed soccer publication: “The longtime veteran has been peppered with shots…and he’s compiled a 1.06 goals-allowed average and made more saves than any keeper except Matt Pickens of Colorado.”
Duncan Oughton's new feathered haircut inspired the debate of the worst haircuts in Crew history at Thursday's training. Here is the input from Crew players and staff:
Head Athletic Trainer Dave Lagow: Terrible haircuts I've seen: Eric Gehrig, terrible this year and the long, Beetlejuice, some would argue the Crypt Keeper from Tales of the Crypt to the terrible combover he has right now. Cole Grossman, last year just went in for a normal haircut and came out with an awful, awful child's haircut which led to him grown his hair out like a girl, terribly. But he's kind of got it back together now. Duncan Oughton, present. Rusty Wummel- not a bad haircut, but a bad style. I would argue, prior to my time, the Guille mullet was not a good look. I hate to do it, because he's been a great addition this year, but (assistant athletic trainer) Phil Watson had a terrible haircut this year, which he felt awful about. He needed a haircut, he had a very specific instruction to the woman and she ran with it and it butchered it. He was a Peyton Manning lookalike.
Eric Gehrig: My defense is, it was damage control…
Cole Grossman interjects: Can I just go on record and say that I've liked all of his haircuts? (laughs) I just want that to go on record to show that I'm his only friend, his only true friend that appreciates his hair.
Gehrig: My current hair situation is due to (a female hair stylist at a Columbus salon that will not be named) really did me bad.
Josh Williams: How much did you pay for that?
Gehrig: Fifteen or twenty. Then I had to go home, go shorter, and this is where it's at. But for sure, worst haircut on the team is Netzo.
Andy Gruenebaum: Everyone is going to say Gehrig. Gehrig had a Zack Morris phase. He's had a lot of different phases. I'm going to go Netzo. I don't know what he's doing with that hair. It's beyond anything a Jewish man could accomplish.
Equipment manager Rusty Wummel: There's been so many guys with so many bad haircuts… Manu (Emmanuel Ekpo), when he first came, it was pretty bad… Duncan never left the seventies. That's part of his problem, in general. It explains a lot about him.
Chad Marshall: The one that Duncan has right now. He asks for the Lloyd Christmas I think… I think it's straight Lloyd Christmas from Dumb and Dumber.
Duncan Oughton: Chad said that? He's ridiculous. Worst haircut… There's been a lot of them over the years. Gehrig's is kind of a lack of haircut. Obviously, front office-wise, Brian Bliss's horseshoes are less than average. Your red hair, Cody, it's struggling. (Editor's note: It's strawberry blonde.) Sebastian Rozental, when he was her had kind of a Worzel Gummidge thing going on, like a scarecrow cut. Bobby's mustache, in terms of hair was really bad and occasionally still is. As a consistent performer of bad hair, I'm going to say Danny O'Rourke. He thinks it looks amazing, but it's always emo, there's been cornrows at one point in time. It really just average… Also, Mike Lapper's hair hasn't changed in 12 years. It's the LEGO man clip on cut.
Danny O'Rourke: No comment.
Eddie Gaven: The worst haircut would have to be my army haircut from 2008. I tried to cut my own hair. It didn't work out too well, so I had to buzz it and it was real high and tight. I got grilled by the guys for a while from it. I don't even know if I had a beard back then, so I just looked really weird. That's probably the worst haircut in my time here. Basically, I'm throwing myself under the bus.
The Crew Juniors Under-20 team, coached by Crew technical director Brian Bliss, closed out the USL Super-20 regular season by winning the Midwest Division with a perfect 7-0-0 record. In the last three games of the season, the CJ 20s defeated Cincinnati’s Kings Soccer Academy 6-1 on July 5, followed by a pair of Michigan club’s – 2-0 over Waza FC on July 7 and 8-1 over Alliance Academy on July 8. The 20s are now qualified for the USL Super-20 Championships in Bradenton, Fla., which are set to begin on July 19.
In just a couple of hours, the Crew will kick off against new Eastern Conference rival the Montreal Impact. Originally opened in 2008 for the NASL Impact, the team kicked off MLS play in the newly renovated Stade Saputo on June 16 with a 4-1 win over the Seattle Sounders. Before the Crew plays its first game in MLS's newest stadium, here is your own personal tour of the Stade Saputo:
The view from the northwest corner(where the Nordecke would be at Crew Stadium) of Stade Saputo at field level. Notice the observatory from Olympic Stadium, home of the former Montreal Expos, in the background.
The vantage point from atop the Impact supporters' section facing south.
My view of all the action tonight, from the press box.
Finally, Rusty Wummel and Dave Lagow's office for the night: the visiting locker room.
Good morning from Montreal!
To start the day, the guys on the team had breakfast and enjoyed the Wimbledon final between Andy Murray and Roger Federer in the restaurant attached to the hotel. Judging by Cole Grossman and Eric Gehrig's celebration following Federer's slice to win a game in the first set, it seems the Swissman is the overwhelming favorite among Crew players... Minus Murray's fellow Brit Chris Birchall, of course.
Given the players' and coaches' interest in Wimbledon, the team walk was delayed by a couple minutes. On the way out of the hotel, Chris Birchall was kind enough to stop and sign a few autographs for some young fans.
The Crew's route on the morning walk included a stroll down Montreal's Rue Saint-Catherine, which is lined with desiginer boutiques. The team gave Emilio Renteria some grief as the striker fought the temptation to visit the Louis Vuitton store.
The morning walk ended with a stretching session in front of one of Montreal's many downtown churches before the guys split up for lunch.
Stay tuned later for more coverage from Stade Saputo before tonight's match.