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Former Silverbacks Reserves Defender Rises to Major Heights

Photo Credit: Bart Young/Colorado Rapids

When former Atlanta Silverbacks left back Chris Klute arrived in Major League Soccer in 2012, not much was known about the Texan. The Colorado Rapids acquired the 22-year-old on a one-year loan from the NASL club and played just one match in the 2012 MLS season.

What happened next was magic.

There is little doubt that the Colorado Rapids have picked a gem out of the NASL, as Klute began his post-collegiate career on the Silverbacks’ reserve squad in the NPSL in 2011.

He quickly rose up the ranks.

“I really enjoyed the time that I played with the team and played with some great guys and great coaches. It was a good experience for me,” Klute says about his time in Atlanta.

Klute admits that in his first few months at the Reserve level were a bit shaky since he had not played for a certain amount of time. That may have been a blessing for Chris, as he was able to refine his skills and relearn the game after playing just a year each at Furman University and Clayton State University.

“Day after day and week after week I was there working at (getting better) and it was a way to get my confidence back and getting back the skills I knew I had. There were a lot of college guys playing just for a chance to make it.”

After two years with the Silverbacks Reserves, the defender signed with the pro side and began his climb to bigger things. His time with the Silverbacks would be short, yet very productive. The defender started 11 of the 12 matches and even notched his first career assist in the process, something that would foreshadow his time in MLS.

“I find that watching myself on tape helps me a lot,” he says, “You have to watch the mistakes you make and if it happens again you have an idea of what to do.”

Klute also helped the club record three shutouts in his last five games in Atlanta, conceding just a pair of goals in that stretch. This coming after the Silverbacks conceded the most goals in the league just a year prior.

The defender knows that the NPSL has helped him climb to the success he sees today.

“The league helped be get back into the competitive mode,” he explains. “Teams and players are competing at a high level so that they can make it to the next level of professional soccer. It helped me develop faster and got me to fight for 50/50 balls better and getting forward.”

The Colorado Rapids came calling for Chris and he left the Silverbacks before the year was over to sign a one-year loan in September of 2012. The defender saw the change right away.

“The MLS is more of jump when it comes to talent. In the NPSL, you are playing against guys that have played professionally, but it’s awesome playing in the USA’s top league.”

Klute started in the final match of the Rapids’ final regular season match in 2012, a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo. Just a start under his belt in the MLS, the defender would have to wait for the fourth match of the 2013 season to continue his career and start his mark in MLS.

In that fourth match of the year, against the Los Angeles Galaxy, Diego Calderón injured himself in the 23rd minute. From then on, Klute shot off like a rocket to become one of the best left backs in the country.

“I am very grateful to be playing and I am happy where I am right now. I don’t think many people can say that they have taken off like I have in a short amount of time. I still try to progress season by season and take it from there.”

The defender finished the 2013 season playing in 31 matches, starting in 30, and helped the team collect 10 shutouts, one more than the previous year.

What the Rapids really enjoyed was the seven assists that the defender contributed (most on the team), especially one that was a game-winner.

“I guess that I can be labeled as a hybrid defender, but I don’t like that. I am more defensive as I play left back, which is my first priority. The way we played this year (at Colorado) there was a lot of space that opened up for me and I got more chances to play forward. It was fortunate to play up, make a one-two pass with somebody or lay in a nice cross and get involved in the attack.”

The seven assists and the defensive productivity caught the eye of and Klute was added to their Goal USA MLS Best XI. That was the second best gift the Rapids defender got in 2013, as Colorado purchased his contract from Atlanta.

With the success coming in all levels of that Christopher has played, the next step maybe wearing the Red, White, and Blue again, as the defender represented the US at the U-17 and U-20 levels in 2007.

Klute was part of the 2007 U-17 squad that went to the World Cup in South Korea. He didn’t necessarily get much time on the field, but there was much to take in.

“You saw really good talent on the field in the World Cup and you think about where you are in your career and ask yourself if there is more that you need to work on. You also cannot just sit back on your talent since there are guys out there working as hard as you are.”

Among the notable names that the United States saw in that World Cup are Belgium’s Eden Hazard (Chelsea) and Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) as well as German and Bayern Munich midfielder Toni Kroos, who won the Golden Ball in that tournament.

“It was great to see guys like that play and it makes you wonder and dream about making it overseas with a big club in Europe.”

As Chris has shot from the Reserve side of the Atlanta Silverbacks to MLS in just a short time, it is likely that Klute will be making an appearance on the USMNT backline sometime soon.

Crew Names Asher Mendelsohn Director Of Soccer Operations And Josh Wolff As Assistant Coach

The Columbus Crew announced today that it has hired Asher Mendelsohn as Director of Soccer Operations and Josh Wolff as Assistant Coach. Effective immediately, Mendelsohn departs U.S. Soccer as Director of Referees, Coaching Administration and Development Academy Programs while Wolff completes his tenure as Assistant Coach for D.C. United, the club where he finished his 15-year professional playing career. Per club and MLS policy, terms of the agreement were not disclosed and further staffing updates will be provided when available.

Photo Credit: U.S. Soccer

Mendelsohn is tasked with overseeing the Crew’s competition guidelines and salary cap management, player identification and acquisitions, as well as assisting with the implementation of the club’s technical vision. Wolff becomes the first Assistant Coach to join Berhalter’s staff, as the former U.S. Men’s National Team and Major League Soccer veteran brings a wealth of playing and coaching experience to the Black & Gold.

“With these two additions to the staff, I feel that we are adding strong pieces to the technical side of our organization,” said Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. “Both Asher and Josh have been involved with U.S. Soccer at the highest levels for many years and they cover a broad range of experience.”

Bringing nine years of experience with the U.S. Soccer Federation, Mendelsohn first served as Member Services Coordinator for two years before the creation of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, which emerged in 2007 as the top-tier for the nation’s youth soccer ranks. He transitioned to a role as Manager of the Development Academy for three years before accepting the expansive position of Director of Referees, Coaching Administration and Development Academy Programs, a job he held for more than four years. In 2012, he was instrumental in Major League Soccer’s formation of the Professional Referee Organization (PRO), the group responsible for managing the referee program in professional soccer leagues in the United States and Canada.

“Asher is very familiar with the soccer landscape of America, having worked at different levels in U.S. Soccer,” said Berhalter. “He’s bright, hard-working and brings an analytical mind that will be integral to our technical staff.”

Wolff joins Berhalter’s staff after two seasons as an Assistant Coach on Ben Olsen’s staff at D.C. United following his retirement in the Nation’s Capital after 15 years in professional soccer, both domestically and abroad. He began his career with the Chicago Fire in the club’s 1998 inaugural – and MLS Cup-winning – season and in just 14 matches scored eight goals, tying him with the Crew’s Jeff Cunningham for a then-MLS rookie scoring record. Wolff would stay with the Men in Red through the end of the 2002 season and took home the 1998 and 2000 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles before he was traded to Kansas City. Wolff posted back-to-back 10-goal seasons in 2004 and 2005 and secured a third U.S. Open Cup title with the then-Wizards in 2004.

Photo Credit: D.C. United

In 2007, Wolff signed with Germany’s 1860 Munich and played two seasons alongside Berhalter, who captained the club from 2006-2009. Wolff returned to Kansas City in 2008 and in 2011 was picked-up by D.C. United, where he finished his career before a transitioning to the Black-and-Red’s coaching staff in 2012.

“In Josh, we are adding a coach with a very good eye for offensive development,” continued Berhalter. “He will complement the coaching staff nicely as he’s a young coach with a bright mind and a playing career that demonstrated his intelligence on the field.”

Internationally, Wolff earned 52 caps with the United States Men’s National Team from 1999-2008 and scored nine goals. Wolff helped put Crew Stadium on the map globally in 2001 when he subbed-on for injured Crew legend Brian McBride in the 15th minute and proceeded to score the game-winning goal and recorded an assist in the inaugural “Dos a Cero” victory over Mexico in FIFA World Cup Qualifying, held on February 28, 2001 in sub-freezing temperatures.

Mendelsohn and Wolff are Berhalter’s first hires as Sporting Director and Head Coach of the Crew, as the club prepares for the 2014 Major League Soccer campaign. For complete details on these hires, the club and 2014 season tickets – which start at just $13 per match – visit

Serna Gets the Call

U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team head coach Tab Ramos completed the team’s 20-player roster with the addition of midfielder Dillon Serna as the group prepares for the 2013 CONCACAF U-20 Championship that starts on Feb. 18 in Puebla, Mexico.

The Brighton, Colo., native was signed by Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids as a homegrown player after being part of the club’s U-15/16 and U-17/18 U.S. Soccer Development Academy teams. Serna played in three matches with the U-20 MNT in 2012. He spent the 2012 collegiate season with Caleb Porter at the University of Akron.

Ramos announced an initial 18-player roster on Feb. 7 and the team named forward Jerome Kiesewetter to the roster on Feb. 11. The team is training in Toluca, Mexico, but will travel to Puebla this week.

The U.S. U-20 MNT is looking to qualify for the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey from June 21-July 13.

The U-20s open the CONCACAF U-20 Championship group stage against Haiti on Feb. 18 and Costa Rica on Feb. 22 at Estadio Olímpico Universitario Lobos BUAP in Puebla, Mexico. Both Group A matches kick off at 5:30 p.m. CT and are televised on FOX Soccer. U-20 MNT fans can also follow the action through’s MatchTracker and on Twitter @ussoccer_ynt.

The top four teams from the CONCACAF U-20 Championship advance to the U-20 World Cup.

U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team Roster by Position:

GOALKEEPERS (3) : Cody Cropper (Southampton FC; Maple Grove, Minn.), Kendall McIntosh (Santa Clara; Santa Rosa, Calif.), Zackary Steffen (FC DELCO Academy; Downington, Pa.)

DEFENDERS (5) : Eric Miller (Creighton; Woodbury, Minn.), Juan Pablo Ocegueda (C.D. Guadalajara; Riverside, Calif.), Boyd Okwuonu (North Carolina; Edmund, Okla.), Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids; Boulder, Colo.), Javan Torre (UCLA; Santa Monica, Calif.)

MIDFIELDERS (6) : Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake; Garden Grove, Calif.), Benji Joya (Santos Laguna; San Jose, Calif.), Mikey Lopez (Sporting Kansas City; Mission, Texas), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids; Brighton, Colo.), Caleb Stanko (SC Freiburg; Holly, Mich.), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew; Gahanna, Ohio)

FORWARDS (6) : Brandon Allen (Georgetown; Old Bridge, N.J.), Daniel Cuevas (Santos Laguna; Sacramento, Calif.), Daniel Garcia (North Carolina; Dallas, Texas), Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stuttgart; Berlin, Germany), Mario Rodriguez (1. FC Kaiserslautern; North Hollywood, Calif.), Jose Villarreal (LA Galaxy; Inglewood, Calif.)

Cummings on the Rise

Whether leading the charge for the Colorado Rapids or representing his home country, Omar Cummings has proved to be a world-class striker.   And we weren’t the only ones to notice, thanks to interest from EPL side Aston Villa in 2011.  And his best season (14 goals in 2010) proved to be the same year the Rapids brought home the MLS Cup.   Coincidence? We think not.

Cummings has plenty of great memories in Colorado, the first being the Rapids’ championship season.

“For the city, it was good. It was the perfect time to make that run.”

But Cummings is the first to share the credit, first talking about his strike partnership with Connor Casey.  He then had kind words about teammate Pablo Mastroeni, a past fixture for the U.S. National Team.

“It has been a pleasure and an honor to play with him.”

Having fellow Jamaican Tyrone Marshall and veteran Brian Mullan around has been critical as well.  Marshall has been the consummate professional and a support figure.  Mullan is known for an otherworldy work ethic.

Cummings himself has become known as a gamebreaker, a speedster with superior technical ability.  To say there aren’t many of those in MLS is a huge understatement.

These skills has helped him become a regular on the Jamaican National Team. Playing on an international level is the “ultimate thing” for Cummings, who compares it to a soldier going into battle for their country.

“I want to represent my country to the best of my ability,” the 2011 MLS All-Star stated. “”It is a duty, an honor that is not given easily.”

Cummings registered 6 goals and 2 assists in 2012 even though he was slowed by injuries.  He hopes to come back physically and mentally stronger in 2013 despite the fact that he won’t see much in terms of rest.

But he has made his mark on and off the pitch, being a deadly attacker and a fan favorite at the same time.  And we have to add innovator to that list.

Cummings helped Pelé Sports debut their new Trinity 3E SHEONE boots, some of the most interesting and advanced boots we have ever come across.  Yes, it is like having artwork on your feet, something that will surely turn heads and give you an edge.

“I like to try different stuff. They are artsy and definitely unique.”

We can’t wait to see Cummings next season as he sets his sights on bigger and better!

ISN Goes to the White House

President Obama welcomed  the Colorado Rapids to the White House Monday as they were recognized for their  2010 MLS Cup Championship.

Needing a bit of a morale boost after a 4-1 thrashing by the  Columbus Crew on Sunday, the Rapids were eager to meet the President and they  certainly did that. President Obama praised the closeknit Rapids players for  their hard work and commitment to charities and non-profits. “They aren’t  just great players; they are good people,” President Obama said.

The players truly understood the magnitude of the honor.  “It’s amazing; it’s one of those one in a million chances,” Jamaican  striker Omar Cummings stated.

Danny Earls agreed. “It’s a good  feeling,” the Irish defender declared. “It is an amazing way to top  off a championship season.”

It didn’t end with the recognition ceremony. Colorado  players and coaches gave children of military families a special soccer clinic  on the South Lawn. It was a special event for all involved. “I thnk  families of the military have given so much over the years,”Cummings  continued. “It gives them a little bit of a break and a little bit of  fun.”

“I have an Iraq veteran in my family,” midfielder  Jeff Larentowicz added. “I know what it’s like. I am sure they have gone  through some hard times and it’s been difficult for everyone. But to put a  smile on their face and give what we can to them, it means a lot.”

This special day represents a tradition that started with  D.C. United after the team claimed the 2009 MLS Cup. At that time MLS could  certainly be called a fledgling league with potential. Today the league  continues to move up in terms of popularity and star power, something that even  our “Soccer Dad” President takes note of.

Event Photos