The Columbus Crew announced Wednesday that it would be sending Ryan Finley, Ross Friedman, Kevan George and Matt Walker to its USL-PRO affiliate Dayton Dutch Lions for the entirety of the 2014 season. Goalkeeper Brad Stuver will also play for Dayton, but will train with the Crew.
While the move may be seen by many as a condemnation of the players, Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter says it's far from a negative, and called it an exciting opportunity.
“We're in a position where we can develop our guys through Dayton and strengthen their team,” Berhalter told MLSsoccer.com Wednesday. “It's not a demotion, we're not looking at it like that. We're looking at it as a positive where they're going to get to play good competitive games.”
The headliner of the move is forward Finley, Columbus's first-round pick in the 2013 Superdraft. And while the Duke and Notre Dame product had a disappointing 2013 season, Berhalter says the loan isn't his final chance.
“I wouldn't look at it like that,” he said. “We think he's a good player. I want to stress that with him it's about getting his confidence up.”
Berhalter used Sporting Kansas City striker Dom Dwyer – who was loaned to Orlando City for much of 2013 – as an example of what a loan move can do for a young striker.
“We're kind of using the Dom Dwyer model,” he said. “Before he went [to Orlando], he wasn't the same player as when he returned. He made great strides playing for Orlando, and we're looking for something similar from Ryan.”
Meanwhile, Trinidadian international Kevan George, who has never had a consistent position or playing time in Columbus, is being sent to Dayton to learn his new permanent position in the center of defense.
“We see him as a guy who can contribute in our team, and he just needs to play the position more,” Berhalter said. “He hasn't played enough, so he's going to go there and be able to play a lot of games in a short period of time and we can look at him after that.”
For Homegrown rookies Friedman and Walker, Berhalter hopes the move will help them adjust to the physical nature of professional soccer.
“They're coming from college, and pro soccer is a different level in terms of the physicality, and they're just going to have to adapt to that,” he said. “This year will be a great opportunity for them to get accustomed to that and look to join up later on when we can see the progress they've made.”