If the Columbus Crew’s 2023 had to be summed up in one word, it’d be MASSIVE.
Of course, all of us are still partying after the First Team won its third MLS Cup on December 9 at Lower.com Field against LAFC and after the parade downtown. Bring on the third star above the crest!
And don’t forget about Crew 2, as the Capybaras won the MLS NEXT Pro Eastern Conference and hosted MLS NEXT Pro Cup for the second time in as many seasons.
But the Crew Academy made massive strides toward the future, too. Here are some of the main updates that you should know, including…
Updates on the U17s and U15s
Sorry, attention goes to the older guys first. Let’s start with the Under 17 side, which really found its groove during November. The boys went unbeaten in five of their last seven matches during the Fall season, including three wins in the last four games. A few standout results this season from the Under 17 group were a hard-fought 3-1 victory away at Chicago Fire FC and a 1-1 tie on the road at Houston Dynamo, with Under 15 player Jamil Danjaji featured on the score sheet.
A few names to know are Chase Adams, Isaac Tortola and Tristan Brown, who have each been invited to recent U.S. Youth National Team camps.
As for the U15 group, the team has been in blistering form. First, Columbus kicked off the campaign with eight consecutive wins. (You’ll be happy to know the opener was at FC Cincinnati). But this group has also won its last two matches. In total, the Black & Gold have 10 wins from their first dozen matches this season.
“We have to find a balance between positive results on the field, implementation of our One Club playing style, and challenging our young players,” said Dan Lock, Director of Player Development. “Our staff have done a good job of balancing that so far this Fall season, with several national team call ups, positive on field performances and results, and also being able to push numerous U15s up to our U17 team to provide them with that extra challenge and experience.”
Some notable names for the younger side are Gianmarco Di Noto, Rhys Presthus and Jamil Danjaii. All three have earned training and match opportunities with the U17s this Fall, which is awesome. And speaking of awesome, yes, Rhys Presthus is the son of former Crew goalkeeper Tom Presthus. Presthus was part of the 2002 Crew team that won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup – the Club’s first trophy.
Events and Programming from the Summer and Fall
The Columbus Crew believe in a One Club ethos that’s centered around an attractive playing style and empowering players to be great examples and assets to the Central Ohio community.
It’s also worth pointing out Crew Connect, a program the Academy launched this fall season. Crew Connect focuses on creating a deeper connection between the Academy players and the Club, First Team, and city. This has included First Team match analysis, Q&A sessions with First Team players and learning about the history of the Crew.
All three of the Academy squadsstudied a Crew MLS match as a First Team Game Observation. The boys produced a match analysis and studied the shared styles of the senior players and how they’ve performed within the Academy. This was a cool opportunity, of course, but it also proved how the Crew embodies its One Club approach to have all teams play using the same tactics throughout the player pathway.
Additionally, Crew Connect hosted three players from the First Team who spoke with the Academy boys to answer their questions and provide advice. Club captain Darlington Nagbe and Crew Academy products Sean Zawadzki and Isaiah Parente joined the session to share their insights and experiences throughout the player pathway.
“Connecting the Academy with other facets of our Club has been a big goal of ours,” said Lock “We want our players to develop a lifelong affinity for the Club and understand the deep role it plays in our community. Thank you to everyone that has played a role in the different initiatives this Fall and helped to grow the One Club ethos.”
Another important night that will stir the heart of all Crew supporters was a Crew History Presentation. This was a moving event that helped the players further connect to not only the Club but also the Columbus community.
The presentation highlighted the team’s early years and the history of Historic Crew Stadium, but it also showcased the Save The Crew movement. The players within the Crew Academy wouldn’t be able to represent this Club if not for the amazing supporter and community efforts, and the boys were reminded of who they represent each time they wear the Club badge.
A third event was one of the biggest nights of the year for the Club’s youth development: Academy Signing Night.
The Columbus Crew welcomed all players, their friends, and their families to the OhioHealth Performance Center to officially announce their commitments to the Academy. This was a night to celebrate the accomplishments of new players while also showcasing club facilities to their families.
USYNT Call Ups for Crew Academy Players and Coaches
If you haven’t noticed, the Columbus Crew’s success starts at the Academy level. Not only are the boys balling out for their Academy teams, but they’re representing our national teams in major international tournaments.
Seventeen-year-old midfielder Taha Habroune, who signed with Crew 2 this season, recently represented the U.S. at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Indonesia. While Habroune played, Crew UPSL Head Coach and Assistant Director of Player Development Kelvin Jones was an assistant coach for the U.S. during the tournament in Asia. Both are remarkable achievements!
Speaking of remarkable achievements, Chase Adams and Isaac Tortola were U15 Concacaf Champions with the U.S. earlier this year in the Dominican Republic. Fittingly, the boys beat Mexico, 4-2, in the final. Both Adams and Tortola were then invited to the U16 Domestic Training Camp in November. Tristan Brown was also rewarded with a U17 Domestic Training Camp call up in October.