When Gregg Berhalter arrived at the Columbus Crew, it became clear that he saw the athletic Trinidadian midfielder Kevan George as a defender rather than a midfield general.
George was among the first Crew players to be loaned to the club's USL affiliate Dayton Dutch Lions, where Berhalter said he needed to learn to play centerback, and simply required game experience to adjust to the role.
Now, as three of Berhalter's defenders depart for the World Cup, George seems to have his chance to prove himself to the coach. And after being recalled from Dayton last week, George got an opportunity to play in central defense for the Crew when the two teams met for a friendly Tuesday night.
After playing the entire second half in the team's 2-0 victory, George said he felt good, and thought that he showed Berhalter what he wanted.
“I thought it went pretty well,” George said after the game. “From an individual standpoint, I think I did fairly all right. I'm still learning the position and getting better, but I thought it was a solid performance overall.”
Perhaps more importantly, Berhalter thought George was good as well, and pointed to his athleticism as part of his game that impressed.
“I think he was good,” Berhalter said. “He made a few strong tackles, he was good in the air, his passing was good, so we were pleased with him.”
But the coach – and former centerback himself – reiterated that the position is an important one, and said that he needed to get George comfortable with the position before he could trust him there.
“Centerback, I feel, is a position where you need time, and you need to play the position,” Berhalter said. “It's difficult to step in and perform at that position. It entails a lot of organizing, a lot of positioning, your passing has to be very secure, so just giving him the rhythm of playing in competitive matches in that position was helpful.”
George started and played 90 minutes in each of Dayton's first seven matches of the season, and says he's much more confident at center back than he was before.
“Definitely I'm feeling more comfortable,” he said. “I'm watching the guys around me like Tyson [Wahl] and Eric [Gehrig], and also watching games on TV, seeing what those guys do, listening to Gregg, and just taking the game in and learning.”
Is George ready to contribute in MLS play yet? Berhalter said he's, “getting there,” but admitted last week that he may have a chance with World Cup players gone. As for George himself, he's feeling more confident.
“I think I’ve learned enough to go ahead and play,” he said. “Obviously the cast around me will help me as well, but I think the games at Dayton definitely helped me, and I feel more comfortable to go out and execute.”