The View from Our Crew

Cunningham Returns to the Crew

COLUMBUS, OH - January 28, 2011 - The Columbus Crew announced today that it has signed Jeff Cunningham to a multi-year contract, returning one of the most prolific scorers in league history to the club where he spent his first seven professional seasons. Per club and league policy, no further terms of the deal were disclosed. Cunningham was selected in Stage Two of the MLS Re-Entry Process on Dec. 15, 2010.

Cunningham, 34, is just two goals shy of becoming Major League Soccer’s all-time goal-scoring king. He enters 2011 with 132 career goals, one behind all-time leader Jaime Moreno’s 133. He also remains tied with Brian McBride atop the Crew’s all-time goal-scoring list, having tallied 62 times in Black & Gold between 1998 and 2004.

“I’m really excited to return to the club where I started my professional career,” Cunningham said. “I scored the first goal of my career in a Crew jersey and my 100th at Crew Stadium (with FC Dallas), and it is a place that has always been special to me. It’s only fitting that I break the all-time scoring record in Black & Gold.”

The Montego Bay, Jamaica, native and product of the University of South Florida was selected by the Crew in the first round (No. 9 overall) of the 1998 MLS College Draft and appeared in 182 games (112 starts) with the club.

Among his 62 goals in Black & Gold was one of the most significant in club history – the first-ever at Crew Stadium on May 15, 1999. Cunningham went on to play for Colorado, Real Salt Lake, Toronto FC and FC Dallas, where he spent the last three seasons. He was a MLS Best XI selection with the Crew in 2002 and again in 2006 (RSL) and 2009 (FCD), when he was the MLS Golden Boot winner (17 goals).

While at USF, he earned first-team All-Conference USA honors as a sophomore and junior, and was named the Conference USA Player of the Year as a senior. He finished his career at USF with 41 goals and 36 assists. Cunningham became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2001 and has since earned 12 caps with the U.S. National Team, scoring his first international goal in a friendly against Denmark on Nov. 18, 2009.

Crew Training Camp - January 26, 2011

Lewis Center, OH - No four words warm the heart of many northerners stuck in sub-freezing temperature like “Pitchers and Catchers Report”. However, for Ohio soccer fans, insert the phrase “Training at Superkick”.  For the past week, many have wandered into this massive indoor sports facility, guided down the long halls by the sound of 5 a side games, finishing drills, and fitness exercises, to watch America’s Hardest Working Team get back to work. Somewhere in the frigid cold air of Central Ohio, Spring is finally on its way. 

For those of you able to make it out, fans will see that fresh faces are everywhere on the plastic pitch, such as Crew first round pick, Rich Balchan. Remarking on his first pro camp, Balchan said, “The quality of play has been good. Everything that we go through is pretty intense. It’s more intense than college, even the passing drills, we just rip through everything. I feel like [my] fitness is already getting better.”  The Ann Arbor, Michigan is roommates with fellow Michigander and first round draft pick, Justin Meram.  Balchan has yet to meet fans from the local supporters groups, but he said, “They’re very passionate groups; I’m definitely looking forward to meeting them. It makes it special to have a fan base like that.”

Balchan and fellow ex-Hoosier Andy Adlard are just a handful of rookies and trialists trying to make their mark one of the top sides in MLS. However, two unusual guests grabbed headlines yesterday, as a current NFL punter Pat McAfee suited up on a “trial” with the Black and Gold and ex-Crew vet Jeff Cunningham, strolled in on short notice to begin training with the team that drafted him in Stage 2 of the MLS Re-Entry Draft. While no contract is in place, Cunningham was not allowed to participate directly with the team, but spent time doing fitness and technical work.

While not all trialists and draftees are guaranteed a spot on the newly expanded roster, Head Coach Robert Warzycha related that the extra space makes the path a bit easier for the players to stick, adding, “Last year we only had two spots that we were looking for. This time, the players are more confident because they see there is more opportunity. This year, we give them more time to just play and give ourselves a little more time to evaluate.”

Quick Notes:

-Jeff Cunningham was seen partnering with new Crew forward Tom Heinemann, who was not able to fully participate due to injury, in technical work.

-Maybe reading too much into this, but Cunningham was sporting a nice new pair of black and yellow boots. Players get free boots like all the time, but still, seems like his feet are ready to sign.

-Former Crew players Nelson Akwari and Cory Elenio are in camp on a trial. Both are said to be accompanying the team to Arizona later this week.

-Danny O’Rourke and William Hesmer are still on the shelf and not participating in drills.

Crew Sign Forward

COLUMBUS, OH - January 7, 2011 - The Columbus Crew announced today that they have signed forward Tom Heinemann to a multi-year contract. Per club and league policy no further terms of the deal were disclosed.

A big (6-4,180), prolific striker, Heinemann joins the Crew after spending the last two seasons with the Charleston Battery of the United Soccer Leagues and Carolina RailHawks of the NASL. He trained with the Crew briefly early in the 2009 preseason, following a collegiate career at Rockhurst University.

“We are happy to bring Tommy back,” said Crew head coach Robert Warzycha. “He went and played in the USL for the last two years and developed into a proven goal-scorer. He will be a great addition to the roster.”

Heinemann was named to the NSCAA/adidas NCAA Division II Men’s All-America Team following his sophomore and junior campaigns at Rockhurst. As a rookie with the Charleston Battery of the USL First Division in 2009, he scored two goals in 21 games played (six starts).

The 23-year-old native of St. Louis had his breakthrough year in 2010. He scored eight goals and recorded seven assists for the Battery as it won the USL Second Division title, starting all but four of the 25 games he played. Heinemann then joined the Carolina RailHawks of the USSF D-2 Pro (now NASL), helping it reach the D-2 final by scoring six goals in 12 games.

“I am thankful to God for putting me in the place I am now,” Heinemann said. “I am very happy to come back to a team that has so much credibility and history. I was here once before and look forward to working with the awesome staff and players.”

Crew Sign Chilean Defender

COLUMBUS, OH - December 30, 2010 - The Columbus Crew announced today that it has signed Chilean defender Sebastián Miranda, who will be officially added to the roster upon receipt of his International Transfer Certificate (ITC) and work visa. Per club and league policy, no further terms of the deal were disclosed.

The 5-8, 154-pound defender joins the Crew from Unión Española of the Chilean first division where he spent the bulk of his career after stints at SV Red Bull Salzburg of the Austrian First Division and Universidad Católica of Chile.

“We are very pleased to welcome Sebastián to our team,” said Crew head coach Robert Warzycha. “He is quick to defend in 1v1 situations, tactically sound and brings a lot of experience to our back line.”

The 30-year-old native of Santiago, Chile, began his professional career at Union Espanola, making his first-team debut in 2001 when he started 19 matches. After helping the team reach the final of the 2005 Apertura campaign, which it went on to win, Miranda moved to Austria where he spent part of the 2005-06 season with SV Red Bull Salzburg.

Upon his return to Chile in 2006, he split his time between Unión and Universidad Católica where he remained until the 2008 season. In 2008 he returned to Unión Española, where he was made captain upon the retirement of former player and current coach Jose Luis Sierra.

“I am very happy to get to the U.S., in particular to the Columbus Crew,” Miranda said. “It’s a new challenge in my career, for which I will put all my effort to get the best for Columbus."

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