When Crew forward Ryan Finley transferred to Notre Dame after his sophmore season at Duke, he probably expected to start a few games for the Irish after netting 28 goals for the Blue Devils in two seasons.
Notre Dame Head Coach Bobby Clark saw things differently.
Using college soccer's unique substition rules to an advantage, Clark inserted Finley into his tactics 20 minutes into each game. Finley went on to score 28 goals, 21 of which came in 2012, despite not starting a single match in two seasons in South Bend.
"[Coming off the bench] was something I got used to," Finley explained. "The starters only played 20 minutes and I'd come on for 70 minutes, so it wasn't like I was playing only 30 minutes or anything. I was seeing an extended amount of time each game."
With Jairo Arrieta away with the Costa Rican National Team, Finley has the chance to start his first match in two years when the Black & Gold plays D.C. United on Saturday. The rookie is ready for whichever direction Head Coach Robert Warzycha decides to take on Saturday.
"I've played soccer for a long time," he said. "Whether I'm starting or coming off the bench, I think I can adapt my game and hopefully help the team out."
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.
Crew Rookie Kevan George returned to Columbus on Wednesday after serving international duty for the Trinidad & Tobago U23 squad for CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying in Los Angeles. Though the U23 Soca Warriors failed to move on to the next round of qualifying in Kansas City, George's time with the T&T U23s provided valuable experience.
"It was a phenomenal experience overall," George said of his time with the Soca Warriors. "I learned to play with different players and adapt to different roles that the coaches wanted me to perform."
After going 90 minutes in all three of T&T's qualifying matches, the rookie midfielder is happy to be back with the Black & Gold.
"I missed being around the guys and training with the team I was drafted with. I'm just happy to be (in Columbus) again," George said Thursday.
With both a first team and a reserve match this weekend in Toronto, George could see minutes with the Crew in some capacity.
The Crew's newest signing, forward Aaron Schoenfeld, sat down with TheCrew.com's Cody Sharrett to talk about his path to Columbus, his MLS debut, and more.
Cody Sharrett: Aaron, first of all, welcome to Columbus. Explain the process and emotions of leaving the Montreal Impact camp and getting a call from the Crew.
Aaron Schoenfeld: The day I got released from Montreal, I was pretty devasted-- as any player would be. It's been definitely my dream to become a professional soccer player. When that happened, it was kind of a whirlwind. You don't know if anything else is going to work out. At the same time, when I got released, the next day I was in camp with Orlando City SC, a USL side. I trained with them for three or four days, and then I got a call from (the Crew). It was just crazy, the turn of events. I was more than excited to have one more opportunity. I knew if I didn't make it here, I would have to end up playing in a lower division.
CS: You made your debut against the team that cut you, Montreal. You had a couple of good touches, but never really got a chance at goal, was there any extra motivation to score against the Impact?
AS: I little bit, for sure. At the same time, I'm not saying I disagree with their decision... I was confident enough and I thought I should've made their roster, but since I'm not mad at them there's no hard feelings. Obviously, I wanted to go out there and not necessarily prove that they made a mistake, but at the same time those are my buds and it's always fun to score on your friends.
CS: You're from Knoxville, Tennessee. MLS-wise that's kind of a no-man's land. Were there any teams you followed growing up?
AS: To be honest, the Columbus Crew is the closest team to Knoxville. If you do support MLS there, it's the Columbus Crew. Growing up, we played tournaments in Dayton. A lot of my teammates and I would drive to the Crew games.
CS: You're obviously a big guy at 6'3", providing a nice target forward for the Crew. What weapons do you bring to the field?
AS: I try to use my strength and my size the best that I can. If I utilize it, it can be an advantage: being big, trying to hold the play up and linking other people in. Pretty much, my game should be around the ball, getting a head to the end of balls, and getting tap-ins off the rebound.
Crew rookie midfielder, Ethan Finlay talks about his first MLS game after coming in for Dilly Duka in the first half against Colorado.
Crew draftee Kevan George has been called into Trinidad & Tobago’s Under-23 National Team camp in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in advance of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament, which they kick off against Mexico on March 23 at The Home Depot Center in Carson Calif. The Soca Warriors will play five tune-up matches in Florida over two weeks before the Olympic qualifying roster is announced.
“Playing for T&T would be an honour,” George told TTFF media officer Shaun Fuentes. “I have been in contact with the U-23s and I will meet up with them in Florida before the qualifiers to try earn a spot on the team.
“Every day is very competitive in training and you have to bring your best game to show the coaches what you are capable of and earn the respect of your teammates,” he said of his stint in the MLS. George is hoping to put in meaningful contributions to T&T’s Olympic campaign.
Rookie defender Aubrey Perry talks about signing his first professional contract with the Columbus Crew.
As we landed in Florida, it made me realize how much I missed it – 76 degrees, tropical breeze, palm trees and, most importantly, sunlight… something I haven't seen in a while. It felt like a vacation more than a preseason camp. Our bus trip to Bradenton from Tampa Airport lasted 45 minutes. Right away, we were assigned our rooms and then off to the IMG Fields for a light training session of 5v2s.
So far being a pro has been an amazing experience both on and off the pitch. The coaching staff, new players, veterans, down to the trainers, have all been very welcoming and helpful in the transition from being a collegiate athlete. Everyone seemed very friendly although, on the field, the organization lives up to its creed as the "hardest working." It was as if the sound of a ball transformed everyone into work horses. Every day we work harder and harder and push ourselves beyond limits in the Florida sun to achieve the ultimate goal as MLS champs this year.
After a long session, we cool down, stretch, and do all the necessary things to prepare us for a second session in the afternoon or the following day. One thing that has stood out to me has been the emphasis on diet and rest. After each session, there's a shake and a meal ready for us in the cafeteria. For each individual, treatment/exercises are tailored to fit your needs. For instance, to maximize peak fitness we use heart monitors, which is something I have never used before.
There are players that I've played against in my college career (the likes of Aubrey Perry for USF) and some from club soccer (such as Andrew Bulls and Ethan Finlay), but we haven't reminisced much about those times yet. The day will come when bragging rights will arise in our conversations, though.
Every day in training has been a fight. The coach has been demanding consistency and quality every day which brings intensity and high speed of play. The vets have been encouraging on and off the field. I have been lucky to establish a relationship with a few of the older guys and they have been giving me good advice that will definitely help me out moving forward.
Off the field, it has been very low-key. Most of my time has been spent either hanging out in our living room watching TV with the roomies or playing FIFA in Aubrey's room. There isn't much to do for fun around Bradenton, so we tend to stay around the apartment complex most of the time. I just stay up to date with Twitter and Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family.
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.