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From Homegrown to Pro: Columbus Crew SC's Player Pathway Success

Updated: Apr 4, 2023

Columbus Crew SC's performance against Atlanta United last Saturday was an inspiring testament to the commitment of developing Ohio’s soccer talent. The 6-1 win over Atlanta United was certainly entertaining, but what’s more exciting for Ohio’s Soccer Moms and Dads was the number of Homegrown players, Crew 2 alum and Ohio’s youth club talent on display.

As the final whistle blew at Stadium Crew SC had 4 Homegrown players on the field at the same time; Keegan Hughes, Aidan Morris, Isaiah Parente and Sean Zawadzki. Only 3 Homegrown players made appearances in all of last year - having such a shift (and so early in the season) is a really strong indicator of the commitment and mentality Crew SC has toward player development, even compared to last year.

We’ve talked before about Crew’s commitment to player development and player pathways. The investments that were made into the Crew Academy and the Ohio Health Performance Center in addition to initiating and growing the Crew Network among local youth clubs is a great foundation however there is still a gap between youth play and the first team and this is where Crew 2 can fill the Gap. Saturday’s match gives an early indicator that things are going as planned.

In addition to the four Homegrown players playing Saturday we had the pleasure of watching three Crew 2 alums make huge impacts on the game. Phillip Quinton, Jacen Russell-Rowe and Mo Farsi all played exceptionally well. This begs the question how can a squad with such little professional or MLS experience perform with such confidence and at such a high level. The answer is simple - they were able to get meaningful experience under their belt with Crew 2 and taste success at the professional level. The Crew 2 coaching staff, under the leadership of Laurent Courtois have a very similar philosophy to the first team, aiding in the transition. For young players when you pair successful experience with a coaching staff who shows belief in you and wants to help you progress, it’s a formula that allows young players to grow quickly.

All this is not to say that Saturday’s squad was altogether lacking experience. Ohio’s own Darlington Nagbe was at the helm - sporting the captain’s armband and representing all that Ohio youth clubs strive to achieve through player development. Nagbe, who was 17 years old when MLS Academies started in 2007 never developed in a youth soccer system like we have today. Having come through Ohio’s Internationals SC and the University of Akron before embarking on a professional career.

Although this is all very exciting we can’t overlook what is coming. The amazing thing about this past weekend that isn’t going to get a lot of attention is that on Sunday Crew had four current academy players make their professional debuts with Crew 2,Gio De Libera, Ty Nero, Chris Rogers and Taha Habroune. This is in addition to Cole Mworka and Aidan Wolf who are also Crew Academy products who together propelled Crew 2 to a come from behind win of their game on the road.

Crew's performance against Atlanta United not only resulted in an exciting 6-1 win, but it also showcased the team's commitment to developing Ohio's soccer talent. With four Homegrown players on the field at the same time, the team's investment in player development and player pathways is evident. Additionally, the success of Crew 2 alums in the game demonstrated the importance of meaningful experience and a coaching staff that believes in young players. Ohio's own Darlington Nagbe, who represents the achievements of Ohio's youth clubs, also played a crucial role in the match. Looking ahead, the debut of four academy players with Crew 2 signals a promising future for the team's commitment to player development. Overall, Columbus Crew SC's performance on Saturday demonstrated the team's dedication to nurturing and promoting Ohio's soccer talent.

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