The Columbus Crew drafted a pair of new players in the 2013 SuperDraft, picking up intriguing forward Ryan Finley and defensive prospect Drew Beckie. The two complement the team's earlier signing of homegrown players Wil Trapp and Chad Barson as the team's push for youth continues.
Finley, chosen by the Crew with the ninth pick of the first round, is a challenging player to assess. A former member of the US U-17 residency program, he led his team in scoring in each of his four years of college soccer. Twice he scored more than 15 goals in a season. Over his career he has been compared to players such as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ruud van Nistelrooy, and Robbie Keane - physical, poaching forwards who thrive with good service from midfield while also being able to produce dangerous shots from tight spaces.
Finley's playing career is not without some controversy, however. After his sophomore season he left Duke University under less than ideal circumstances (some observers have used the phrase "kicked out") before landing at Notre Dame. Coming off a season in which he led the ACC in goal scoring, this transfer could raise some cautionary notes about his temperament or ability to blend with teammates.
In the second round, the Crew tapped Canadian defender Drew Beckie from the University of Denver. Beckie, a native of Saskatchewan, has been involved in the Canadian youth national teams at several levels, including the Olympic team. He also holds a US green card, however, and so does not count against the Crew's foreign player limit.
Through his time in collegiate and international soccer, Beckie has played right back and as a central defender - with observers split as to which position would be more natural for him in MLS.
His performance at the player combine pushed him over the top in the Crew's estimation. "He had a very, very good combine. He was very good in all three games." said coach Robert Warzycha, speaking to the Crew's website. "He was one of the best at organizing the back four, he talks a lot and squeezes the field. That's something we were looking for."
That Warzycha would choose to describe Beckie's organizational abilities is interesting for a rookie player, particularly on a team with a veteran center back in Chad Marshall. With many of the team's center backs from last year departing, the team could choose to groom Beckie as Marshall's understudy.
For his part, Beckie is saying all the right things about his new defensive teammate. "Chad Marshall is an MLS legend. I just want to watch him play and learn that way. I just really want to fit in wherever I'm needed. I'm excited to start with him and the whole team. It's really nice to have a guy like that to look up to starting my career."
While the team has drafted one player with a green card, another player has become a US citizen. Cameroon native Tony Tchani was sworn in on January 13th, giving the team additional roster flexibility.
Another player with Crew ties was drafted this afternoon. Forward Eriq Zavaleta, who was part of the Crew's championship-winning academy teams over the past three seasons, was drafted in the second round by the Seattle Sounders.
No players from Ohio State or the University of Akron were taken in this year's draft, but several other Ohio colleges were represented. Xavier forward Luke Spencer was taken in the second round by New England, while Cleveland State goalkeeper Brad Stuver was selected by Montreal.
While no members of the Akron Zips were taken in the SuperDraft, that does not mean that none will be turning pro. Four players have left the team this offseason to sign Homegrown Player contracts in MLS. Two - Chad Barson and Wil Trapp - have joined the Crew, while Scott Caldwell (New England) and DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle) have also made the jump.