Excitement surrounds the air in Central Ohio as, Crew 2, the Columbus Crew reserve team, is set to play its first-ever match on Saturday against Inter Miami II at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The club will play in the new MLS NEXT Pro league in its inaugural season and will play home matches at the Historic Crew Stadium, with one game this season scheduled to take place at the first-team crown jewel of Lower.com Field in downtown Columbus.
While the club as a whole views winning as important, Crew 2 general manager Corey Wray expressed the importance of development over everything else. Wray said in his press conference on Thursday, “I think for us, the focus is really when the guys came in at the start of the year and come the end of the year, did they get better?”
Wray’s philosophy is that if the development process led by manager and former English Premier League and MLS player, Laurent Courtois, is done correctly, the wins will come.
MLS NEXT Pro is set to be a development league used as a stepping stone to funnel promising players into first teams around Major League Soccer, and Columbus is no different. Crew fans will become accustomed to a league that sees the stars go on to become household name professionals, similar to other soccer leagues around the world.
The new reserve team has an exciting young roster, captained by former USL League One player Marco Micaletto. On Thursday, Micaletto explained what the captaincy means to him, saying, “Lost for words is an understatement. I really try and kind of tell myself that I don’t deserve to be here.”
Micaletto also raved about the environment that Crew 2 has from the facility and the training ground at the OhioHealth Performance Center to the staff. Creating a professional environment is something the club has expressed as one of its goals in this league, giving players every opportunity to prepare themselves for life as a first-team player.
Along with Micaletto, the squad includes already experienced professional players such as Noah Fuson and Michael Vang, players with international experience like Abdi Mohamed who is representing Somalia in the World Cup Qualifiers currently, and Mohamed Farsi, a Canadian youth international with plenty of potential, combined with young exciting prospects such as former Crew Academy player Aiden Wolf amongst many others. The roster consists of players from seven different countries, with the United States, Canada, Ghana, Italy, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Somalia all being represented.
However, with the purpose of the league being to assist the first team, fans could see new young players added from the Academy or even Crew first-team players coming down to play for the club in order to get minutes they otherwise wouldn’t or to help recover from injuries, so it will be a fluid roster all year.
With such a unique combination of players, Courtois noted the preseason trip to North Carolina helped create a bond between the players from watching shows, dinners and even a karaoke night similar to the first team.
“It’s fair to say that it’s a team now.”
Heading into the first-ever match, Courtois also stated that he has started to see the chemistry build both on and off the field now.
The excitement level will be even higher when Crew 2 takes on Orlando City B on April 15 in its inaugural home opener. Fans have the unique opportunity to be a part of a brand new league, once again watch soccer at the Historic Crew Stadium and have the first eyes on potential the next Columbus Crew stars.