Columbus Crew Academy has been one of most successful academies in USSDA history, with a rich history of sending players to the college ranks. The Crew Academy was integral to former Akron coach Caleb Porter’s dominance in the NCAA. Former Crew Academy standouts Wil Trapp and Chad Barson rose through the Crew system and became key members of Porter’s successful Akron sides. Likewise, current Crew first-teamers Kyle Hyland and Aaron Horton are Academy products. The Crew production line does not look like it will be slowing down.
The U18 squad will return their top four goalscorers. Silankonet Bayo (’96), William Bayemi (’96), Andrew McKelvey (’96) and Kentucky commit Noah Hutchins (’96) combined to score 48 goals at the U18 level last season and are poised for an even bigger 2013-14. Bayemi recently impressed at a United Sports Group camp, in which SC Braga scouts were wowed by his promise and have since begun setting up a training session for him in Portugal. Bayemi is a Cameroonian citizen, but should be eligible to play for US youth squads soon.
As the saying goes, the rich get richer with the promotion of Columbus Crew U16 forward Nathan Kohl. Kohl spent a semester with the US Residency, and recently committed to the University of Michigan. Kohl is an excellent front man and should fit right in with the high-scoring offense the Crew boasts.
The reason the Crew are allowed to attack so freely is because of the work provided by midfielders Brady Blackwell (’95), John Schuman (’95) and ’97 usynt Ben Swanson. Blackwell is committed to San Diego State, and started every game for the U18s last season. Schuman is a Wake Forest commit and provides the stability that allows the forward players space and time. Look for Schuman to drop into defense to allow a number of the talented attackers to be on the field at the same time. ’96 usynt goalkeeper Carter Richardson is one of the best in the pool at his age.
Ben Swanson is the key cog in this team. He spent much of last season with US U17s, and while he is listed on the Crew U16 roster, he will undoubtedly see time with the U18s. Swanson is a top level prospect and very similar to current Crew star Wil Trapp. Swanson enjoys playing in the center of the park and is a good link between offense and defense. His international experience is as varied as anyone else his age, and he is likely a top-ten US 1997 prospect. Don’t be shocked if Swanson joins ’97 star prospect Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City) in being offered a homegrown contract by the Crew at age 16.
The U16s will be led by George Braima, the ’98 usynt center back who has captained both club and country. He is in line to lead this group, but the possibility exists for Braima to jump to the U18 side to help shore up their defense. He has the size and technical skill to play at that level. Two other promising defenders return in Edward Folds (’97) and Cornell commit Kyle Walsh (’97). They will play in front of another top-notch goalkeeper in ’97 Parker Siegfried, who spent time with the US U15 BNT. Devyn Etling (’98) was dangerous in the attack last year, in only fourteen appearances.
The Columbus Crew U14 squad is headlined by star goalkeeper ’99 usynt Moussa Sy. Sy spent some time with the U16s last year and will bring that experience to the U14s. Also with the squad is prospect Luis Hernandez (’99). Look for the Crew to be one of the top teams at this age level.
Academy Star: ’98 George Braima
Academy Talisman: ’97 Ben Swanson
Academy Prospect: ’99 Moussa Sy