When Crew SC hosts the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, one Columbus player will recognize several familiar faces, on the opposing team. After spending almost nine seasons making a career in Houston, defender Corey Ashe is facing his former club for the first time—and this time he’s rooting for the Black & Gold.
“It will be a lot of fun,” Ashe says. “A lot of good guys, a lot of fun memories, but they know I’m a competitor. Walking away with three points would be fantastic. Just like they want to win, I want to beat them—that’s hands down. I’m looking forward to a good game, but after the game we can have a drink and be friends. On the field, I don’t have any friends.”
Ashe was selected as free agent by Crew SC back in December, followed by a stint with Orlando City SC beginning in July of 2015. He brings years of professional experience to Columbus. He has helped Houston to an MLS cup victory in 2007, two additional appearances in the MLS Cup final in 2011 and 2012, back-to-back Eastern Conference Championships in those seasons, along with one goal and 21 assists over 220 MLS regular-season appearances.
Unfortunately, Ashe’s opportunities to see the pitch in Columbus have been limited as an upper thigh sprain has sidelined him for the beginning of the regular season. But on Tuesday afternoon, he was able to train with the squad for the first time in three weeks.
“It was good to get back out there in a team setting and not just an individual setting,” he says.
“It felt good to get that first training back under my belt.”
Ashe says getting over an injury can be tough, but his focus is entirely on getting healthy and improving in order to help his new team to win matches.
“It’s an internal battle, a lot of focusing on me and on being better because I know that will help the team later on,” he says. “We still have fun in the locker room, but when I step out here, even in the team setting, it’s to push guys, it’s to get better, but it’s to get myself better.”
Even though Houston is in a new era with a new coach and technical director, Ashe’s extensive knowledge about some of the Dynamo’s most dominant players, including former teammate and longtime friend, midfielder Giles Barnes, is valuable to the Black & Gold ahead of Saturday’s match.
“He’s the type of guy that can turn it on in any moment,” Ashe says of Barnes. “He’s a dangerous player. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast. Technically he’s good and he’s got a great shot. He is definitely a guy you have to watch out for.”
Other former teammates to keep an eye on, according to Ashe, are striker Will Bruin and center midfielder Ricardo Clark. Houston played more directly when Ashe was in town and at times, that style is still prevalent. But he says the biggest difference from last year is the Dynamo’s solid attacking core.
“When they get forward, they have a lot of guys who can hurt you, who can make good runs, a lot of technical ability both in the midfield and out wide,” he says. “One of their strengths is definitely going out wide and isolating one-on-one and getting services for Will Bruin and other guys to score.”
Despite the MLS vet’s strong ties and long-time history with Houston, Crew SC supporters can expect Ashe’s loyalty to lie with the Black & Gold and that his focus on a win on Saturday night. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET at MAPFRE Stadium.