The Crew signed midfielder Chris Birchall, 28, to a multiyear contract today. The Stafford, England native is a Trinidad and Tobago international and last played for the L.A. Galaxy, winning MLS Cup with them last year.
Birchall's signing brings the players under contract to 33, three over the roster limit of 30. Rich Balchan is currently on the Disabled List and forward Tommy Heineman and goalkeeper William Hesmer can be moved to the DL due to thier season ending injuries to put the Crew in roster compliance.
Birchall is a midfielder who can play centrally or wide right, but most often played defensive midfielder with L.A. The move will give the Crew some tactical flexibility. Rookie Kirk Urso and Danny O'Rourke have played defensive midfielder so far this year, but Birchall could start at holding midfielder and free up O'Rourke to play elsewhere on the field if needed.
With the forward crop decimated by injuries, Birchall could also play more advanced in midfield and allow Milovan Mirosevic to push higher as a second forward, but that is less likely.
Birchall did a Q/A with theCrew.com earlier and talked a little bit about his game:
It's really just trying to do the dirty work and win the balls back and put some good tackles in and just be that kind of anchor between the defense and midfield. My best position is defensive midfield, even though I can play on the right. I think really just to win a lot of tackles and win the balls and get the ball to the attackers that can do the damage really
Danny O'Rourke has played admirably as the holding midfielder since getting past a nagging ankle injury this year, but his long term health is still in doubt. Birchall gives the Crew a veteran in a position that the team has struggled to maintain since Brian Carroll was traded after the 2010 season.
Birchall arrives on a free transfer and is eligible to play with the Crew immediately, but his last competitive game was for L.A. during the MLS Cup. He will likely need some time to get fully fit.