homegrowns - mls cup - 2020

In the wake of last month’s most recent Homegrown Player signing of Isaiah Parente, ColumbusCrew.com caught up with 2020 Homegrown signees Aidan Morris and Sebastian Berhalter to discuss their first seasons in Major League Soccer, lessons learned, and how the Crew Academy help prepare them for the next step.

Aidan Morris:

On what your Homegrown Player signing means to you after your first season in MLS:

“Signing my Homegrown contract is something still to this day that I can’t put words to. It’s something I’ve dreamed of doing ever since I got to Columbus and to be tied to the Columbus Crew was a no-brainer. … It was nothing but learning as soon as I got to Columbus for preseason, and it was tough at the beginning, but Caleb always had trust in me, and when you have guys around me like Darlington, Arty, and Lucas, you are always learning.”

On the adjustment process and lessons learned from the jump to the First Team from the Academy:

“It’s difficult to adjust, but I would say I was lucky enough to be exposed to it at a younger age and kind of know the level. I trained with the First Team every day before I left for college, so I knew the level for the most part, but there are those little details. You’re not just trying to fit in – that’s the thing. When you’re a professional athlete, you have to stand out on a daily basis. So, it’s all just turned up a notch when you become a pro. I think that’s the thing – you have an amazing support staff around you with the coaches and other players, and it helps a lot.”

“Also, the thing I gathered from my first year was that it’s okay to make mistakes. The best thing about making mistakes is you learn from them. You jot it down in your mental notebook and realize, ‘OK, I didn’t do that well. I can take a step here, or do that better,’ and it’s just those little details that, while making a mistake sucks, you learn a lot from it. … So, the beginning was tough for me, but I’d say that I just had more things to learn to be able to bring my game to a new level. At the end of the year, I had all those things accumulated and I put them all into one, and it helped with my speed of play. I’m far from the speed of play that I want to be at, and I still have more work to do, but it has definitely helped.”

On his reaction upon learning he would be starting in the 2020 MLS Cup:

“My initial reaction, for about two or three hours, was upsetting. I was so upset about Darlington, and for him to be out, it sucked. He texted me after he got his results and he said … ‘I think you’re going to be the next man up and to be ready,’ so I mentally prepped for that, and that tells you just the type of guy he is. After that, I put aside that Darlington would be out and what meant for the team, and I had to make a mental switch and realize it's on me now. After I put away the Darlington aspect, it was a mental switch for me, and I started preparing my body for that different level of preparation when you know that you’re starting. I assumed I was the next man up, and once I saw the starting lineup at training the next day, I knew that was it. So, I just focused on all the information Caleb was giving me and taking it all in. I immediately called my dad after training and told him I would be starting, and he started freaking out and immediately booked a flight up to Columbus. I cannot thank the staff enough and I cannot thank Caleb and Darlington enough, because without those guys, I wouldn’t have been able to jump into that game at 19 and perform the way I did.”

Sebastian Berhalter:

On the challenges he faced moving from the Crew Academy to college soccer:

“From the Academy to college at UNC, it wasn’t easy. I didn’t start every game, and that was something I wasn’t used to. With the Academy, I was used to playing week-in, week-out every game, and it was a different challenge and I needed to learn how to adapt to fighting for a spot. It wasn’t just ‘there’ and I had to fight for it, so, it was a really good lesson because I feel like I hadn’t had that too much and being able to do that was something I needed and, in retrospect, it was something that was very important for my development.”

On what he learned at the collegiate level that helped his development:

“For me, it was all about accountability. I think I had to take things into my own hands, and I grew up a little bit in those four to five months. I said ‘If I really want to do this, and this is my dream, then I have to really get down to work.’ I think I had that attitude through my Academy years, too, but I think that I was just like, ‘I need a different gear here. This is not good enough.’ So, I think it was just every day, knowing that if I wasn’t playing or in the starting lineup [at UNC], I knew I had to keep grinding because there were guys who were playing, and I knew I had to make up for all that time that I lost. So, obviously, my dad was always there, and I had other friends who supported me along the way, but it was kind of just putting my nose down and just playing and working off the field to really further my development.”

On one key takeaway he learned from his time with the Academy:

“I think I was introduced to the [First Team] guys when I was 14, and from there, being in that professional environment while also training with the Academy was so important … but the Academy prepared me so well for having that professionalism and embracing the day-to-day grind and staying humble through the whole process. That was a message the Academy would always send – to just keep your head down, stay humble, and put the work in. So, that was a valuable lesson that I still carry today.”

On what he would tell other aspiring pros in the Crew’s Academy system:

“Just focus. Put your head down, don’t worry about anyone else, and do your thing. It’s not about how you look on Instagram or Snapchat. It’s just about day-to-day grinding, and you don’t need to post everything. Having that mentality where you know you have kids in Brazil or Germany who are working just as hard as you, so how are you going to outwork them? And it's just having that mindset of always trying to be the best.”

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