With the introduction of Crew 2, the Columbus Crew’s reserve team playing in MLS’s brand-new MLS NEXT Pro league, there have been a lot of firsts. Corey Wray was announced as the team’s first General Manager. Frenchman, and former professional soccer player, Laurent Courtois as the team’s first head coach. Crew Academy product Aidan Wolf was signed as Crew 2’s first contracted player.
On Thursday, two days before the start of the team’s inaugural season, Crew 2 announced its first captain, Marco Micaletto. In a press conference with the media ahead of that first game against Inter Miami II, Courtois announced Micaletto’s rise from a new signing to the leader of the team.
In fact, Micaletto found out just that morning that he would wear the captain’s armband this season. Like many in that situation, the response was shock.
Micaletto’s played professional soccer since graduating from the University of Akron in 2018 in Georgia with USL League One side Tormenta FC but was humbled at his early rise as a new member of the Black & Gold organization.
On Feb. 25, Crew 2 signed the Italian-born, Reading, England-raised attacking midfielder. Micaletto’s 81 matches with Tormenta came with 26 goals and seven assists, good enough to lead the club in scoring during his time in a Tormenta shirt. Micaletto’s signing showed that Crew 2 wanted a proven goal scorer on the team, but there’s more to it than that.
Echoed throughout the announcement were odd things that aren’t normally attributed to the goals of a club. Wins and losses aren’t the measurements of success for Crew 2. The development of players on and off the field is shared by everyone in the organization, with the idea that this internal focus can also yield external results.
Not only does Micaletto provide goals, but a means for a group of young players to learn from somebody who’s been in their boots, even if it initially didn’t seem like that to Micaletto upon arrival.
“I actually thought I was quite young until I got here,” said Micaletto, comparing his 26-year-old self to the rest of the Crew 2 roster. “And now I’ve got people that look up to me and so that’s again humbling.”
Multiple times during his first time with the Crew mediad, the midfielder shared that he doesn’t deserve the opportunity to be captain. It’s not a line that feels like lip service either.
“Every day I try not to take it for granted and then to get this honor added on to that,” said Micaletto. “Yeah, it took a second for me to kind of wrap my head around but it certainly won’t change my mindset.”
What is it that Micaletto isn’t taking for granted? It’s being part of the Black & Gold in general. Part of the reason Micaletto left South Georgia and Tormenta FC was the facilities and setup of the Crew organization. Micaletto grew up in England, played a season in Northeast Ohio, with the Akron Zips, but hasn’t lived in a larger city like Columbus.
Micaletto and his fiancé, who are getting married at the end of 2022, moved their lives to Central Ohio. So far, they’ve enjoyed the city, the different cuisine and areas like the Short North.
It wasn’t High Street or Jeni’s Ice Cream that sold Micaletto on a big life change, however. It was the sales pitch of Wray and the organization, a pitch that included playing the team’s games at historic Crew Stadium, a Crew organization that seems to genuinely care about his development on and off the field and a state-of-the-art training facility in the OhioHealth Performance Center.
“We’re so blessed to have this brand-new infrastructure,” said Micaletto about the OhioHealth Performance Center. “When it’s cold, they put a massive dome over our heads to go and train and the grass is amazing. We’ve got iPads in the gym that I don’t really know what they do, but it’s just so many amazing things.”
It also doesn’t hurt to have exposure with head coach Caleb Porter and the Crew senior team. Micaletto has a higher chance to move into MLS on a team like Crew 2 than the lower League One division of the USL. Leading the team on and off the field and adding some statistics to the Crew 2 record books has the midfielder in a position where he could move up into the senior team.
Right now though, the focus is on the short term. On Saturday, Crew 2 travels to Florida to face Miami. It’s the first match of the team’s history and it’s played at DRV PNK Stadium, the home of MLS side, Inter Miami.
While no starting 11 has been shared, it’s safe to say Micaletto has a place as the captain. Around him will be players from potentially six other countries, Crew Academy players and athletes straight out of college.
As captain, it’s Micaletto’s job to help a brand-new team build chemistry, develop tactically and help a young group adjust to the rigors of a 24-match season, plus a potential playoff run. When it comes to the gym’s iPads, that may be a job for his younger teammates.