Saturday, February 28, 2009

2/28/09: Rogers, Marshall, Frankie, and Warzycha Talk About The Season

Crew play Everton Reserves tomorrow.

Nice article entitled "Rogers Hoping To Deliver Encore" by Craig Merz:
The thought occurred to Robbie Rogers more than once while he enjoyed a brief but relaxing offseason in Huntington Beach, Calif., not far from where the Crew won the MLS Cup on Nov. 23 at The Home Depot Center. What could the 21-year-old midfielder do for an encore?

"I talked to my dad at the end of last year and the beginning of this year," he said. "We talked about my goals from last year and how I guess I reached all of them. I went to the Olympics, won the MLS Cup, won the Supporters' Shield, and was an All-Star and Best XI.

"It was a great year last year. I don't know if I'll be able to replicate that year."

The Crew certainly hopes for a repeat of a season that saw Rogers burst onto the scene in his second season as quickly as he moved down the left flank. He had five goals in the first seven matches and although his production slowed down quite a bit afterward he still had six goals and three assists in 27 games while finishing second in the league in fouls suffered. He also added a goal in the playoffs.

Along the way he was selected to the MLS All-Star First XI, missed two Crew matches while playing for the United States in the Beijing Olympics and earned MLS Best XI honors along with teammates Chad Marshall and Guillermo Barros Schelotto.

"It's been a crazy year," Rogers said.

He's already off to a good start in 2009, having been invited to U.S. national team camp in early January and getting his first cap Jan. 24 vs. Sweden. He was also on the 20-man roster for the World Cup qualifier Feb. 11 against Mexico at Crew Stadium although he didn't play.

"Training (with the national team) is always fast and playing with those players is a great experience for me and to be able to play in that game against Sweden was kind of like the perfect ending to the camp. Then to come back here for the Mexico game was awesome," he said. "I made a lot of progress this offseason and now I need to build on it this season."

Another MLS Cup and a strong year individually are among his objectives.

"I have some high goals right now. Hopefully, I can reach some of them," Rogers said. "I want to play more with the national team. After you get a taste of the national team it's like an addiction. You want to keep playing with guys like that and keep playing where it means a lot. I want to get into the Confederation or Gold cups and play in some qualifiers."

He also has a long-range goal. After one season at the University of Maryland where he helped the Terrapins to the 2005 NCAA championship, he signed with SC Heerenveen of the Dutch first division in August 2006. He played reserve matches for club before opting to come to MLS in was obtained via weighted lottery by the Crew in March 2007.

It's no secret Rogers wants to return overseas and will likely field offers this summer or after the MLS season. The Crew's current preseason trip to England could lay some groundwork while the team plays matches against the Everton and Liverpool reserve sides.

"I want to go to Europe. Whenever you're playing, people are watching. You're representing your team and yourself," he said. "We're getting ready for the season so I'm not thinking about it too much but in the back of my mind when you're playing a team like Everton there's scouts there and I have to start taking advantage of that."

While Rogers had a good preseason it was a bit frustrating for Marshall, the 2008 MLS Defender of the Year. He was also at the U.S. camp in January and was hoping for his first appearance in two years but was sent home early with a troublesome right knee. A few days later he underwent arthroscopic surgery.

"It was a few days after I got hurt at camp. I came home, got it scoped, cleaned out some fluid under my MCL area that was bothering me, nothing serious, just two-three weeks of recovery," Marshall said. "I started to feel it toward the end of the season and then I was working out in the offseason and obviously you can't really replicate national team camp with that kind of cutting and pace. It started to bother me and I let the trainer know. It wasn't going away.

"It was definitely unfortunate. I was really looking forward to that (U.S. camp) and hopefully doing well and getting back into that whole scene but it wasn't my choice. Obviously, the timing was bad but I've been working hard since I had the surgery. It shouldn't be a setback to the season. I want to get through preseason and get the season started but it's important to get fit."

He can take solace that he's still way ahead of where he was a year ago at this time after coming off series of concussions that ended his 2007 season prematurely. The first question at last year's Crew preseason camp was whether he was even fit enough to play, let alone start.

"Last preseason I didn't know if I was going to have a job or come in and be able to play. It's definitely come full circle," he said.

Like Marshall, the Crew were an enigma going into the 2008 season. Columbus had missed the playoffs three consecutive seasons but had shown promise toward the end of the previous year.

A preseason camp in England in March 2008 at the home of Blackburn Rovers solidified the team, said captain Frankie Hejduk.

"This is the point last year when we made the turnaround in terms of really getting together as a team when we went to England," he said. "We had a couple of good games. All the guys played really hard and really well. We started believing in ourselves."

The Crew is using the Everton facilities this year and it's a homecoming for new coach Robert Warzycha, who played for the Toffees from 1991-94.

"We were at Blackburn last year and we went to Everton game against them and the people were very, very friendly," he said. "It was a warm welcome, probably because one of the reasons was I played for the team in the past and (manager David) Moyes was very nice and offered if we ever wanted to come to England for a few games they can help us a lot so we called. It was easy. We're very fortunate we can use their facilities and play a game against them and Liverpool."

Most of the people associated with the Premiership club when he was there are gone save for a few.

"I know the two most important people over there," Warzycha joked. "I know the doctor (Ian Irvin) -- he's been there the last 25 years -- and the other guy is the equipment manager (Jimmy Martin). They are helping us a lot."

The Crew will play the Everton reserves Sunday and the Liverpool reserves Thursday with a game against lower division Guiseley on Tuesday. Warzycha knows the EPL teams won't field their top squads but expects competitive matches.

"I think the players 13, 14, 15 (on the roster) and up will play," he said. "That's the game we're looking for against Everton. That's we what we did last year when we went there because those players need the games more than anybody. The same with Liverpool. They also told us they're not going to put their U-18 team out there; that they were going to play their reserves, who are the guys under contract."

Warzycha and his team will attend the West Bromwich Albion at Everton league match Saturday and the Aston Villa at Manchester City match on Wednesday.

He feels it's good for the players to not only play but see the Premiership close up.

"They're very professional. They're very organized. You can learn a lot from the atmosphere. Playing against better teams you obviously learn a lot. The mental aspect is very important," he said. "If you watch Premier League on TV it's different than being there. You can see also pick up the atmosphere and the intensity. We did last year and it helped us a lot during the season."


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