Mar 3, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Columbus Crew midfielder Federico Higuain (10) celebrates his goal against Toronto FC with Columbus Crew defender Milton Valenzuela (19) during the first half at BMO Field. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Columbus Crew SC’s leadership council has grown to seven players, coach Gregg Berhalter said Monday.
Fourteen-year MLS veteran Ricardo Clark, goalkeeper Zack Steffen and eight-year MLS veteran Hector Jimenez have been added to a group that already includes midfielders Federico Higuain and Wil Trapp and center backs Josh Williams and Jonathan Mensah.
“We actually added three this year so we can have a consensus vote,” Berhalter said. “Good cross-section of ages, experience levels and nationalities.”
The decision comes after the leadership group, formed for the first time prior to the 2017 season, was down two members following the August trade of midfielder Ethan Finlay to Minnesota and the late January trade of midfielder Justin Meram to Orlando City. Trapp is in his second season as the Crew’s captain.
Berhalter drafted a fourth goalkeeper, Ben Lundgaard, in January with the expectation that Crew SC would send one on loan for an extended period of time. On Monday, Berhalter confirmed Lundgaard has been loaned to Indy Eleven, which departed NASL for the USL ahead of the 2018 season.
“Games, minutes,” Berhalter said of his expectations for Lungaard. “It’s very simple.”
Lundgaard’s loan sets up an interesting two-way battle between second-year keeper Logan Ketterer and long-time MLS backup Jon Kempin for the Crew’s backup job behind Steffen. Ketterer was in the 18 Saturday for the Crew’s game against Toronto.
“They’re in a good competition,” Berhalter said. “I like Logan’s mindset in preseason, I like how he’s come in, I like how he’s performed when he’s gotten the opportunity, so he’s done a good job. These things change as the year goes on and what we want is competition for spots.”
Crew SC had an extra player in training Monday. Geovane, a 19-year-old midfielder for Sao Paulo FC’s second team, participated in Monday’s practice and was on the right wing for drills open to reporters at the end of practice.
The Brazilian winger is expected to train with the Crew for a week, Berhalter said.
The Crew in December completed a low-seven figure deal with Sao Paulo FC to acquire midfielder Artur on a permanent transfer. The 21-year-old started 19 games on loan with Crew SC in 2018. Berhalter said during the preseason the Crew used targeted allocation money to pay for a significant portion of Artur’s transfer fee.
Centerback Josh Williams, who was not in the 18 Saturday after being listed as questionable with a foot injury, participated full-speed in a short-field scrimmage drill toward the end of Monday’s practice.
Midfielder Niko Hansen, who pulled up with a hamstring injury during the February Pacific Rim Cup in Hawaii and has not played in a game for Crew SC since, is getting closer to game fit, Berhalter said.
“He’s getting there. He was behind the rest of the group, so now you have to overtake guys that have potentially moved ahead of you while you’re injured,” Berhalter said. “Now it’s just about him going after it and trying to get a spot in the team.”
Team of the week
Lalas Abubakar, Milton Valenzuela and Higuain were all named to the MLS Team of the Week on Monday following the Crew’s 2-0 win over Toronto. Higuain scored the opening goal in the 44th minute and was assisted by Valenzuela, who made his first MLS start at left back. Abubakar made a couple last-moment clearances as the Crew preserved a shutout.
“We take every game very serious. Game after game, game after game. Now that we’re done with one, we have more to go. So we just have to think about the next game. That is what we should keep in our mind, that we think about the next game every time because it’s important. The first win is important to start on a good note and I think we’ll get there.” — Right back Harrison Afful, on Crew SC’s response after winning its season opener