Paladini ready to step up in leadership role for Crew

Midfielder brings veteran presence to young squad

Daniel Paladini

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USA Today Sports Images

After his contract option was declined by the Chicago Fire, Daniel Paladini's future was uncertain. But after talking to Columbus Crew Head Coach and Sporting Director Gregg Berhalter, Paladini felt good about a decision to stay in MLS.

“I talked to [Berhalter], and he told me he really wants me,” Paladini told MLSsoccer.com over the phone Friday. “When a coach says he wants you, it just makes the player feel that much better, and you have that much more confidence going into the season.”

The Crew traded its fourth round pick in the 2014 Superdraft to Chicago for Paladini's rights, and officially secured him to a deal Friday. While he had other options, the veteran midfielder says he ultimately wanted to stay in MLS.

“There were a couple of ideas thrown around about maybe going to Europe,” he said. “But when it camedown to it, the decision was based on wanting to stay in the States. I've become familiar with MLS, so it's one of those things I want to take my time with and really make sure this is something I want.”

Paladini still isn't sure why Chicago was no longer interested him, and said that he still has several good years in front of him.

“It's the business that we deal with,” he said. “I don't have the direct reason, but whether itwas because they wanted to pick up a guy to play over me, or they wanted more youth – and that's funny because I think I'm young, but in reality I'm 29 now – it happened for a reason.”

Paladini only started seven games for Chicago in each of the last two seasons, but he and Berhalter have both said that they anticipate him fighting for a starting role.

“Nobody likes to come off the bench,” Paladini said. “But if my name is called upon in a starting role, I'll be ready. Every guy on the team wants to start, so we're here to create a competitive level (of play) and do what's best for the team.”

Whether a regular starter or squad player for the Crew, Paladini will certainly be one of the MLS veterans among an increasingly young Columbus roster, and Berhalter expects him to quickly play a leadership role on the team. 

“[Berhalter] did mention that to me, and I'm willing to take that role,” he said. “I've learned from guys like Logan Pause what it is to be a leader, and how to set an example and pay attention to detail, and he's learned from guys like Chris Armas.”

“It's awesome that we have a young team, because if you look at the most successful teams in the League – Salt Lake, Kansas City now – teams that are successful have been together for more than a couple years... I feel like with Columbus rebuilding everything, this could be a long-term goal.”