When the Crew announced an initial list of players to be loaned to USL Pro affiliate Dayton, coach Gregg Berhalter expressed hope that those players would look at it as a chance for growth rather than a demotion.
Two months later, the first player is seeing the fruits of that labor. Defender Kevan George returned to Crew training this week after playing a full 90 minutes in all seven Dutch Lions regular-season games. And as he has spent the week re-acclimating himself to the level of competition, Berhalter said George is an option to replace one of the Crew’s two center backs who are departing for World Cup camps.
“That’s why we brought him back: we brought him back to give us cover and potentially start,” Berhalter said. “We’re going to evaluate him this whole week.”
A former second-round draft pick, George was taken 29th overall in 2012 and has made 18 appearances including seven starts during his Crew career. A defensive midfielder out of the University of Central Florida, George was abruptly thrust into the starting lineup last season as a central defender when a rash of injuries riddled the Crew’s back line.
It didn’t go so well, but Berhalter has said he views George at that position. After his time in Dayton, George said he is growing more comfortable on the back line.
“It’s a position I’m still adjusting to,” he said. “You can never learn enough playing center back. It’s a very mentally driven position, so I definitely felt like I’ve developed with those games in Dayton. I feel a little bit more comfortable. Of course being around Columbus again and our coach, it will push me. I’ve definitely gotten better.”
When the Crew announced its partnership with the Dutch Lions, Berhalter praised the fact that they shared similar playing philosophies. George said that the formation in Dayton was the same as what he’s playing with the Crew.
“It was very positive,” he said. “I played every game at center back. It was just a great time to go down there and practice and help elevate my game and build my confidence and also build confidence playing at a new position. It was a good time in the sense that they all treated me well. The players were very receptive and the coaching staff was very helpful.”
With defenders Michael Parkhurst, Giancarlo Gonzalez and Waylon Francis all likely to be called up for World Cup duty, George said he knew it was likely he would be recalled by the Crew at this time of the year. George said he does not know his status with the Crew once the World Cup ends and those three players all return.
“I’m not a person to dwell on things in the future,” he said. “I just try to control what I can control and obviously those guys leaving is a huge opportunity, but you have to handle your own business and if the coach wants to play you, he will, and if he wants to play someone else he will. That’s his choice. We as teammates have to just be there for each other.”
George has also been called up to the Trinidad & Tobago national team for a pair of friendlies June 4 and 8. Players are to report May 20, but the Crew is not mandated by FIFA to release George. Yesterday, Berhalter said he’s not sure whether George will be allowed to participate due to the team’s need for players.
Either way, George, who has three appearances for his national team, said he was happy for the honor.
“(I’m) very ecstatic for them to even consider me,” he said. “I’m just thankful for the opportunity. Whenever that time comes and I’m able to go, I will go out there and play.”