Crew rookie Gehrig eagerly awaiting start

Still paying his dues, 23-year-old remains an option for Warzycha

Eric Gehrig

Photo Credit: 
Skyler Schmitt

In a world where Eric Gehrig’s thoughts are instantly sent to his
Twitter followers, patience would seem to be a foreign concept.

But the Crew rookie defender/midfielder has learned that trait as he strives for his first MLS appearance.

“I’ve been patient with everything and working really hard in practice
the past few months,” he said. “The good thing about me is my attitude. I
don’t get down about things. Whether I dress, play or not, I come out
here to practice and try to make the team better.”

The 23-year-old is getting closer to his dream of playing in MLS after
having made the Crew’s 18-man game roster the past two matches.

“He’s made some strides,” coach Robert Warzycha said. “He didn’t get on
the field the last two games, but he played well enough in practice to
be on the bench.”

Gehrig and other first-year players who haven’t played are encouraged
by Warzycha’s willingness to use inexperienced players in critical
spots.

Rookie Rich Balchan leads the way with starts in 14 of 15 games, and
Home Grown player Aaron Horton recently made his debut against Real Salt
Lake. In addition, Bernardo Anor got his first start last week vs.
Houston and earned MLS Player of the Week honors.

Also, Justin Meram, a first-round pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, has
become an important cog off the bench even though the former Michigan
forward didn’t see the field until the Crew’s 11th game.

“It’s about not being frustrated,” Meram said. “It’s tough. The last
place you played [Michigan], you’re the captain, you’re scoring goals,
then you come [to MLS] and you’re at the bottom of the totem pole. You
have to work your way up and when the time comes make sure you’re
ready.”

Gehrig is paying his dues. After his senior season at Loyola University
– Chicago, he was invited to the Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting
Kansas City) camp in January 2010. He stuck for a few weeks before being
released.

He immediately returned to school and got a business degree in June of
that year, but decided to give pro soccer another try and trained for
the next six months. He had an offer in January to try out with the
Crew, but already familiar with Kansas City’s coaching staff, he opted
to return there instead.

However, the Crew, after seeing him at several combines the past two years, used a discovery selection on him.

“It was kind of crazy how it all worked out,” Gehrig said. “It’s been an unbelievable four months. I couldn’t be happier.”

His ability to play in the back or as a defensive midfielder attracted the Crew.

“He’s dynamic,” Warzycha said. “He can play center back or in the
middle. I wish we had some more reserve games the last few weeks so he
can play some more.”

Meram has no doubts his roommate will be ready if Warzycha calls his name.

“[Gehrig has] been working real hard,” Meram said. “He’s going to get his shot. I’m sure he’s going to take it and go with it.”