Ben Sweat, we hardly knew you.
The left back who was preparing to begin his second professional season with Columbus Crew SC but will no longer be with the club in 2015, as sporting director and head coach Gregg Berhalter announced his roster for the trip to Austin for the inaugural ATX Pro Challenge and Sweat was not included.
The 23-year old had a disappointing first season with the Black and Gold, failing to make an MLS appearance. Sweat did play in Crew SC's friendly against Crystal Palace FC and against the Chicago Fire in the fifth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
After being selected in the first round, 14th overall, in the MLS SuperDraft, Sweat spent most of 2014 with Columbus' affiliate club, the Dayton Dutch Lions, where he played in seven matches in USL PRO.
"We didn't want to stop his development," Berhalter said on Monday. "We wanted him to be able to compete and play games and we didn't feel like we'd put him in a situation like that this year. So for his development, it was best to move him along."
While his future is not with the Black and Gold, Berhalter believes Sweat will have a career in professional soccer.
"I know there's some options for him in some of the other leagues and that's what it's about for him is getting to compete and getting to play games," the head coach explained. "I think that's what's most important. And if he can get into a situation like that, he's going to be better off than being here and perhaps not playing."
Berhalter explained that it wasn't Sweat's skill, but rather his inability to fit into Crew SC's style of play. Berhalter and his staff ask a lot out of their full backs, requiring them to get up and down the wings and provide the width of the formation. In his one year with the club, Sweat was unable to demonstrate the ability to do this enough to earn a spot in year two.
"I think it's more of our system, what we ask of our fullbacks," Berhalter said when asked what Sweat didn't show them over the last year. "We had to make the decision that in the long term, he wasn't going to be one that could provide what we're looking for."
While discussing Sweat's release, it was obvious that Berhalter was not pleased that he had to let the young player go. Sending a player packing is never easy and the head coach admitted it is his least favorite part of his job.
"These things are never easy," Berhalter said. "You work with a guy, you become close with these guys and that's the hardest part of this job, having to tell a guy, ‘Listen, you're not good enough to be on this team.' And I don't enjoy that at all and I don't like to have to do that but that's part of the job."
The Black and Gold have Waylon Francis, who started 24 games a season ago at left back, as well as Chad Barson and Hector Jimenez, who all saw time at the outside defender spot a year ago. They have also added Argentinean veteran Hernan Grana and potential U.S. outside back Chris Klute.
Berhalter admitted that the new additions along with the players already capable of playing on the outside of the Crew SC's defense has increased their depth and forced this move.
While Sweat will look to latch on elsewhere and earn playing time, Columbus will begin the more competitive part of their preseason. After two weeks of training in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, Crew SC will travel to Austin for their first competitive games of the preseason beginning on Friday when they take on FC Dallas. That game will kickoff at 5:45 pm.