The View from Our Crew

Former UA Striker Joins Black & Gold as Homegrown Player

COLUMBUS, OH - January 11, 2012 - The Columbus Crew announced today that it has signed UNC forward and Crew Soccer Academy product Ben Speas to a multi-year contract as a Homegrown Player. Per club and league policy, no further terms of the deal were disclosed.

A native of Stow and graduate of Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy, Speas began his college career at the University of Akron where he appeared in 50 matches and notched four goals and six assists, helping the Zips reach the NCAA Men’s College Cup final in 2009 and win the national title in 2010. In 2011 Speas transferred to the University of North Carolina where he appeared in 26 matches and tallied seven goals and 10 assists. He capped a dream season by scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 victory over UNC-Charlotte in the 2011 NCAA Men’s College Cup final. For his efforts, he was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Offensive Player and was later named the 2011 College Player of the Year by Soccer America.

"I can’t wait to finally put on the Black & Gold," Speas said. "I've been going to Crew games since I was eight years old and have been able to see most of my coaches play at Crew Stadium, so this is a dream come true."

The 5-8, 155-pound Speas was part of three youth national championships with the Crew, the 2010 U-19 USYS McGuire Cup title and back-to-back USL Super-20 titles in 2010 and 2011. He was also on the 2008 Crew Soccer Academy U-17/18 team that finished third at the Development Academy National Finals. Speas is also a U.S. national youth team veteran, having competed at the U-20, U-18 and U-17 levels.

"Ben is a talented young player who we have had the good fortune to work with and watch develop over the last four years," said Crew head coach Robert Warzycha. "He has the ability to get out of tight spaces quickly, combines well with others and has good vision. We are proud that he has earned the opportunity to progress to the professional level."

Speas becomes the club’s third Homegrown Player, joining forward Aaron Horton and goalkeeper Matt Lampson. A club may sign a player to his first professional contract without subjecting him to the MLS SuperDraft if the player has trained for at least one year in the club’s youth development program and has met league criteria. Players joining MLS through this mechanism are known as Homegrown Players. There is no limit to the number of Homegrown Players a club may sign in a given year.

Crew Make Big Moves in Offseason

COLUMBUS, OH - January 6, 2012 - The Columbus Crew announced today that it has signed Costa Rican forward Olman Vargas to a multi-year contract, pending receipt of his ITC and P-1 work visa. Per club and league policy, no further terms of the deal were disclosed.

The 26-year-old striker joins the Crew from Club Sport Herediano of the Costa Rican First Division, where he scored 17 goals over the last two seasons and helped the team reach the final of the 2011 Apertura season.

“Olman is a tall, physical forward who promises to be a great addition to our club,” said Crew head coach Robert Warzycha. “He has good speed, a good touch and he works extremely hard.” The 6-2, 174-pound native of San Jose, Costa Rica, began his career in 2007 with Carmelita of the Costa Rican Second Division, where he appeared in 38 matches and scored 14 goals over two seasons. While at Carmelita, Vargas was noticed by storied First Division club Deportivo Saprissa which signed him for the 2009-10 season. While at Saprissa, he appeared in eight regular-season matches, scoring one goal. He also appeared in both CONCACAF Champions League matches against the Crew that year, including the Black & Gold’s historic 1-0 win at Saprissa’s famous stadium, known as the “Monster’s Cave,” on Sept. 16, 2009, which marked the first time an MLS club had ever won there.

Vargas was loaned to Brujas F.C. de Desamaparados for the end of the 2009-10 season. In 2010 he was loaned to Herediano, which he guided into the 2010 Apertura playoffs and the final of the 2011 Apertura where it lost to Alajuelense in a penalty shootout.

The signing of Vargas is the most recent series of transactions that could leave the Crew as the most improved team in all of MLS. The Crew also signed Chilean midfielder Milovan Mirosevic and made a contract offer to potential Homegrown Player Ben Speas.

The 31-year-old Mirosevic, who instantly draws comparisons to Guillermo Barros Schelotto, joins the Crew from Universidad Católica of the Chilean first division. The signing of Speas, who spent time at the University of Akron before transferring to the University of North Carolina, is likely to be announced next week. Officials at UNC said that Speas tweeted a picture of him signing a contract and added that he has withdrawn from classes for next semester. It sounds like a done deal to us! Speas is a first-round talent that will be an asset to the Crew for years to come.

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