Columbus Crew returned from a two-and-a-half week preseason training camp in Sao Paulo, Brazil recently, and it looks like Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter is starting to get a better idea of what his depth chart is going to look like heading into the season.
And it also looks like he may already have a few players in mind that would spend time on loan to Pittsburgh.
In Massive Report article that was headlined by a report of a year-long loan of Rodrigo Saravia to to IK Frej in the Swedish second division, Berhalter also dropped a few hints of who might be coming to Pittsburgh, when asked about a roster that appears to include a crowded central midfield. The Black & Gold (the Crew that is) acquired three central midfielders this off season in Mohammed Abu, Abuchi Obinwa and Artur and it will likely be difficult to find playing time for Saravia and others.
“I think we’ll get creative a little bit with that and look to place guys in environments that we feel will suit the individual developmental needs the most,” he said early last week.
“So for example, we think (Ben Swanson) and Abuchi would be suited well for USL at this stage, whereas Rodrigo may need a different type of challenge and we’ll address that when we come to it.”
The recent Grove City (OH) High School graduate and Crew MLS designated homegrown player, Swanson was here Pittsburgh a year ago with the Hounds, but only saw limited action, particularly because he was hobbled by illness and injuries. This might be his best opportunity to play regularly is to earn a spot in the central midfield under Hounds coach Dave Brandt.
Other news that came from the Crew on Monday included the official signing of 2017 MLS SuperDraft selection and recent Penn State product and Harrisburg native Connor Maloney. Maloney did take part in the preseason camp in Brazil, but it’s likely that we could also be seeing him in Pittsburgh at some point.
Other players that spent time in Pittsburgh last year that are currently on the Crew roster include Marshall Hollingsworth, Cristian Martinez and goalkeeper Zach Steffen.
Steffen is likely to earn a spot as one of the top two goalkeepers, and Martinez appears start the season in Columbus.
The Crew open up their season Saturday, March 4 at home against Chicago Fire. The Riverhounds begin the season on Saturday, March 25 at home against defending USL Champions NY Red Bulls II.