The Crew technical staff has arrived in Indianapolis looking to improve its roster in Thursday's 2013 MLS SuperDraft. Technical Director Brian Bliss is pleased with the talent pool he and the rest of the staff observed at the MLS Player Combine in Fort Lauderdale over the last five days.
"Obviously, we were able to see quite a bit [in Fort Lauderdale] over the five days and three games," Bliss said on Wednesday. "A lot of it is confirmation of what we've seen from a good percentage of the players during the college season. It was a good chance to re-confirm what we do and learn a little bit about the guys that we don't know that much about from schools on the West Coast."
While Bliss and the Crew brass are prepared to select ninth overall in the SuperDraft on Thursday, the Crew could still explore making other transactions in Indianapolis to either acquire established MLS talent or move up in the Draft order.
Trade rumors have already begun to swirl as the Chicago Fire has reportedly traded its First Round pick and allocation money to the Colorado Rapids for midfielder Jeff Larentowicz. Other deals will likely be made, and Bliss is still considering all options for the Black & Gold.
"There are some trade possibilities," Bliss explained. "Obviously, we've got a couple players that have drawn some interest from some other teams that could potentially help us move up in the Draft. We can package some things together with players and picks. We have some flexibility."
Former Crew midfielder and United States International Robbie Rogers will not return to English Championship side Leeds United after his loan to Stevenage in England's Third Division expired on Wednesday. Should Rogers decide to return to MLS, the Crew currently hold his rights. The Crew could look to trade those rights ahead of the SuperDraft.
"Everybody knows now that Robbie [Rogers] is available because he's terminated his contract with Leeds," Bliss said. "There are some assets there that we have that are pretty attractive and we could possibly make a deal on Draft day."
The 2013 MLS SuperDraft begins at noon ET on Thursday and will be streamed globally via ESPN3, ESPN FC, MLSsoccer.com and YouTube.
After signing as the fifth Homegrown player in Crew history, University of Akron standout Chad Barson joined TheCrew.com's Cody Sharrett for a short Q&A.
Cody Sharrett: Congratulations on signing with the Crew. How do you plan on contributing to the Black & Gold as a rookie?
Chad Barson: I think I bring a good work ethic. I have a good mentality in the way I approach things. I'm willing to contribute, and I'm a team guy. I put the team first. I'll put the team's needs above my own and whatever they need, that's what I'm willing to do.
CS: You've been captain for the past two seasons at Akron and as a centerback, you have to be a leader on the field. How do you approach being a leader as a rookie?
CB: You have to be yourself. You can't be shy. As a rookie, you're stepping into uncharted territory and just because you're the young guy or the new guy, it doesn't matter how long you've been around. Obviously guys that have been around have more say, but you still need to be able to lead, to talk and to organize guys because the position I play, you see the whole game from where you play.
CS: Your coach at Akron, Caleb Porter, has moved on to the Portland TImbers in MLS. How did he develop your game over the past four years at Akron.
CB: Basically, I like to say everything about my game is a result of Coach Porter. The way we trained at Akron, the mentality he teaches you how to approach life, how to approach school, how to approach soccer: it's really all from him. I see a lot of him in myself. When I talk, when I play, just everything really.
CS: You were born and raised in Columbus. Do you remember your first Crew game? Which players did you look up to?
CB: I don't remember my first Crew game. But watching guys like [Brian] McBride, [Brian] Maisonneuve and Jeff Cunningham, I remember watching those guys all the time when I was younger.
CS: Over the past few summers, you've spent time training with the First Team. Who is the toughest guy you've had to defend?
CB: Honestly size-wise, Andy Iro and Chad Marshall because they're some pretty big guys. I'd also throw Steve Lenhart in there because he's such a scrappy guy and he likes to be physical, but he's also a great guy.
To help prepare for MLS First Kick on March 2 against Chivas USA in Carson, Calif., the Crew will get its first game action of 2013 when it takes on Eastern Conference foes D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls during preseason training in Bradenton, Fla.
The Black & Gold square off against United on Saturday, January 26 at 11:00 a.m. before it takes on the Red Bulls on Friday, February 1 at time that is yet to be determined. The club already had a previously scheduled exhibition against the Chicago Fire on Wednesday, January 30, giving the Black & Gold a trio of friendlies against some of their oldest rivals.
All three games will be held at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. The club's full preseason schedule includes two separate trips to Florida, with stage two taking place at the Disney Pro Classic in Orlando from February 6 through February 24.
The Crew and Crew Soccer Foundation were active this past holiday season, assisting local charities through a variety of efforts. As part of the club’s year-long partnership with Faith Mission, Crew staff donated more than 450 non-perishable food items and needed supplies to assist homeless and at-risk families.
In addition, Crew Brand Ambassador Frankie Hejduk spearheaded an effort to donate and distribute 50 toys to youngsters through the Franklin County Children’s Services’ Holiday Wish program. Frankie and fellow Crew staff also raised nearly $400 for Salvation Army emergency services by serving as bell ringers for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle program.
In partnership with Lifeline of Ohio and the Hispanic Coalition, the Crew completed its Three Kings Toy Drive on January 5, by handing out toys to more than 400 Hispanic families in need. The event was marked by smiles and the spirit of sharing, as kids rejoiced in the festivities that included a live play, the traditional roscas de reyes, and the presence of the Three Kings themselves. Of course the festivities wouldn’t have been complete without the presence of Crew Cat and Honey Bee to help distribute the toys!
In keeping with its mission to assist at-risk youth, the Crew Soccer Foundation contributed to the holiday effort by raising nearly one thousand dollars through its annual holiday auction to support programming and services for children in need.
New England Revolution defender Stephen McCarthy changed his number from 26 to 15 ahead of the 2013 MLS season in honor of late Crew midfielder Kirk Urso, who passed away due to a congenital heart defect on August 5, 2012. McCarthy and Urso were teammates for two seasons at the University of North Carolina, helping the Tar Heels to an appearance in the 2010 College Cup after McCarthy missed 2009 due to injury.
McCarthy transferred to UNC from Santa Clara in January 2009 and just as he did when Ben Speas landed at North Carolina in 2011, Urso was the first Tar Heel to make an impression on McCarthy.
"I transferred in and my first memory of [Urso] really stuck. I was a transfer coming in and it was my first day of training -- it wasn't even a real training it was just kind of a kick-around in the gym -- there were no coaches there and we just played small-sided games," McCarthy recalled. "Kirk was just so serious. Every ball, he was going so hard and going after tackles. In my head I was thinking 'This guy is crazy.' I didn't think I liked him very much when I first met him."
He continued, "As my playing went on with him and I got to see who he was off the field as well as on the field, I started to realize how good of a human being he was. He was the most serious player I think I've ever played with because he wanted to win so badly on the field. And then when you got off the field he was just the nicest guy. He was the smartest, the best student on our team. I had some classes with him, he helped me in school as well as on the field. When I transferred, he was always happy to be around and hang out and talk. We kept in touch when I went to New England and he went to Columbus as well. It's tough."
In sports, a player is almost as identifiable by his or her number as they are by name. After all, McCarthy incorporated his number into his Twitter handle: @BigMacca26.
Heading into his third season in MLS, McCarthy will no longer don the number 26, but instead play in his dear friend's memory with the number 15 on his back.
"I was just thinking of Kirk, and I just thought [changing to number 15] would be something nice to do for him and his family as well as for me because I want to keep him in my mind all the time," he explained.
"It's going to be important to me because I'm not just playing for me, but for him as well," he continued. "I want to be playing even harder for that reason."
Number 15 to honor my friend Kirk Urso. He will have my back all season
— Stephen McCarthy (@BigMacca26) January 7, 2013
The Kirk Urso Memorial Fund was established by the Crew Soccer Foundation in late 2012 to provide a platform to develop and support youth heart health research and programming to honor Urso's memory. The Fund is in partnership with the Children’s Heart Foundation, which is dedicated to bringing health, hope and happiness to children impacted by congenital heart defects by funding the most promising research to advance diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
Columbus' favorite Kiwi Duncan Oughton took some time in the offseason to visit fellow New Zealanders in Europe as well as take in some footy action. So far in his journey, Oughton has visited West Ham United to observe training, watched Arsenal take care of business against Reading before seeing long-time friend, Queens Park Rangers' captain Ryan Nelsen, lead the Hoops in a 2-1 win over Fulham. It was QPR's first win of 2012, so obviously Oughton is a good luck charm at Loftus Road.
Duncan was kind enough to snap a few photos from abroad. Enjoy!
(He apologizes for the blurry ones.)
Arrival at the West Ham training facility to catch some training.
Arsenal vs. Reading at the Majeski Stadium.
Kiwi friend David (Goose) Metherell and I outside Loftus Road soaking up the atmosphere in anticipation of the match!
With Adel Taarabat after his brace goals in QPR's first win of the season (I am standing on a step which is why I look massive).
With fellow Kiwi and QPR captain Ryan Nelsen after the 2-1 win vs. Fulham on the Loftus Road pitch.
Major League Soccer announced the first 2013 home games for each of its 19 clubs on Tuesday. After opening the season in Los Angeles against Chivas USA on March 2, the Crew will welcome the San Jose Earthquakes to Crew Stadium on March 16.
Head Coach Robert Warzycha is looking forward to hosting 2012 MLS Most Valuable Player Chris Wondolowski and the reigning Supporter's Shield winners to Columbus to begin the season.
"I'm sure it's going to be an exciting game because San Jose is a very good team," Warzycha said. "You think about [Steven] Lenhart, Wondolowski and [Alan] Gordon, they are very good forwards who score a lot of goals. It will be a good game for us to measure ourselves against one of the best teams in MLS. I'm sure it will be a very exciting first game [at Crew Stadium]."
MLS will announce more First Kick details and the rest of the Black & Gold's 2013 schedule next month.
Tickets for the clash with San Jose are currently available as part of the Crew's 2012 Holiday Pack.
To keep with the Crew headline of the day, this week's Throwback Thursday is dedicated to Homegrown midfielder Wil Trapp's days at nearby Gahanna Lincoln High School. While also spending time with the Crew Soccer Academy, Trapp racked up numerous accolades during his time at Lincoln.
Trapp helped the Golden Lions to a 41-1-2 record during his time playing for his school, leading Lincoln to the 2009 OHSAA Division I state title. Individually, Trapp was a two-time high school All-American, 2009 Gatorade Player of the Year in Ohio and the 2010 NSCAA National High School Player of the Year.
Yes, the 2012 NCAA champion Indiana Hoosiers were coached by two Columbus Crew legends in Todd Yeagley and Brian Maisonneuve. But the Crew connections on the Hoosier roster don't stop at Yeagley and Maisonneuve.
The team's leading scorer Eriq Zavaleta, playmaker A.J. Corrado started on the 2011 USL Super-20-winning Crew Juniors squad under Brian Bliss. In the Super-20 title match, Zavaleta scored on an assist from Corrado to help the Black & Gold to victory.
"[Winning the National Championionship] is good for those guys, and it's obviously good for us," Bliss said Monday. "It shows that we've identified some good players and hopefully we played a role in their development when they were here with us for two-and-a-half or three months of the year. We put a pretty good squad together in a competitive environment and hopefully that played a part in their development."
In addition to the two Hoosiers that helped Crew Juniors to glory in 2011, Senior captains Luis Soffner and Caleb Konstanski spent a week training with the Crew First Team last summer.
Congratulations to Todd Yeagley, Brian Maisonneuve and the Hoosiers on winning their eighth NCAA championship in school history.
Photo courtesy of IU Athletics.