It is every soccer player's dream to be able to play for the first team. For two young and promising players, that dream became a reality.
In front of a sold-out crowd at Lower.com Field Saturday night, Columbus Crew 2’s Jacen Russell-Rowe and Mohamed Farsi both made their first-team debuts in the Black & Gold’s 1-1 draw with Charlotte FC.
“It was a surreal feeling. The atmosphere, the fans, and to finally get that chance, it was an honor to make my debut for the Columbus Crew,” Russell-Rowe told Massive Report following the match.
Though Russell-Rowe only played just under 15 minutes, the forward deserved to get his shot. Russell-Rowe, who scored a brace in Crew 2’s 6-1 victory against Orlando City B Sunday afternoon, extended his lead in the MLS NEXT Pro golden boot race less than 24 hours after playing in MLS for the first time. Russell-Rowe currently sits on 11 goals through 13 ga,es.
For Farsi, playing for the first team is just the beginning of what he hopes will turn out to be a big part of Columbus’ future plans for him.
“I am extremely honored to have made my debut,” Farsi told Massive Report following the match. “Everyone wants to go higher. I'm here to compete and to get better every day. I’m going to keep working hard, and see what happens next.”
Like Russell-Rowe, Farsi has worked hard and earned his right to get loaned up to the Black & Gold’s first team. The defender currently leads MLS NEXT Pro in assists with six so far through 13 games.
For first-team head coach Caleb Porter and the club, Crew 2 is an excellent opportunity for young players to develop and to earn their chance to play with the first team.
“The kind of club we’ve built, we are vertically integrated and we need that tension from Crew 2 pushing some of the bottom end of our roster and in some cases overtaking some guys,” Porter said about the importance of having Crew 2, which is in its first year of existence. “What we have seen from them, more importantly, is that they earned the right to be on the bench and to get into the game based on their performances. I’m not a big believer in just giving young guys minutes, they have to earn it. And those two have earned it with their performances.”
It was surreal for Crew 2 head coach Laurent Courtois to see some of his players live out their dream. While the Black & Gold reserve coach wants to see his team win, he has stressed the importance of developing and producing talent that can hopefully make their way to the first team.
That is what Russell-Rowe and Farsi have done.
“We are really happy for the guys. They really deserve it, and I think it is only the beginning for those two,” Courtois said following the Crew 2 match Sunday afternoon. “As long as they keep putting the work in and being receptive and humble, the sky is the limit for those guys. We think and we believe that there is a couple of guys that are right there too.”
Both Russell-Rowe and Farsi are names to keep an eye on for the future in Columbus. As Crew 2 hits the halfway point of the team’s season, watch for these two to lead the charge for the Black & Gold for the rest of the season. Each Crew 2 player can be loaned to the first team four times and can play twice in MLS. Saturday was Russell-Rowe’s second loan and first appearance while it was Fari’s first trip to the first team.
Crew 2 is next in action Friday night when the team looks to get revenge on Rochester New York FC following a 4-0 loss only three weeks ago. All MLS NEXT Pro matches can be streamed live at mlsnextpro.com.