The Columbus Crew announced today that it has signed former LA Galaxy midfielder and Trinidad & Tobago international Chris Birchall to a multi-year contract. Per club and league policy, no further terms of the deal were disclosed.
The 28-year-old joins the Crew after spending the last three seasons with the Galaxy. He was signed in 2009, joining the team midseason and making his MLS debut on July 16, replacing David Beckham in a match against the New York Red Bulls.
Birchall went on to appear in 57 matches with 46 starts, netting one goal and three assists on his way to helping Los Angeles win two MLS Supporters’ Shields (2010-11), two Western Conference Championships (2009, 2011) and the 2011 MLS Cup.
“We were looking for some experience and Birchall knows the league very well,” said Crew head coach Robert Warzycha. “He’s a hard-working, experienced midfielder and we’re a hard-working team so he is going to fit in well.”
A 5-9, 180-pound native of Stafford, England, Birchall came through the youth ranks of local club Port Vale of England’s Second Division (now League One), where he began his professional career in 2001. While at Port Vale he appeared in 78 matches and tallied seven goals.
In 2006 he transferred to Coventry City of the English Championship where he appeared in 29 matches. After short loan spells with Scottish side St. Mirren and Carlisle United, he moved on to Brighton & Hove Albion, also of the Championship division, appearing in nine matches to finish the 2009 Championship season.
While at Port Vale, Birchall caught the eye of Trinidad & Tobago coaches and was invited to join the team, being eligible to represent the country because his mother was born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. He was called up in 2005 for World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Mexico after impressing the coaching staff in friendlies against Bermuda.
Birchall went on to help the team qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, scoring a huge goal against Bahrain in a playoff on Nov. 12, 2005. He started all three group stage matches of the tournament against Sweden, England and Paraguay. In total, Birchall has appeared in 39 matches for the Soca Warriors, tallying four goals.
“I feel delighted to be joining Columbus Crew,” Birchall said. “I want to thank everyone who made the move possible. I've played against the Crew a number of times and know how passionate the fans are.
Now I can't wait to work hard and battle for them. That's what it’s all about. Hopefully I can add something to a very good squad and use my experience from Galaxy to help improve our league position.”
Born: May 5, 1984 (Stafford, England)
Hometown: Stafford, England
Citizenship: England, Trinidad & Tobago
2011 Team: Los Angeles Galaxy
How Acquired: Signed on May 7, 2012
Professional Experience: L.A. Galaxy (2009-11), Brighton & Hove Albion, England (2009), Carlisle United, England (2008), St. Mirren, Scotland (2007), Coventry City, England (2006-09), Port Vale, England (2001-06)
Columbus Crew (MLS) – Signed - M - Chris Birchall.
Q & A: Chris Birchall
By Cody Sharrett (TheCrew.com)
TheCrew.com's Cody Sharrett got in touch with the Black & Gold's newest signing, midfielder Chris Birchall, on Monday afternoon to get the Trinidad & Tobago International's reaction on his move to Columbus.
Cody Sharrett: First of all, welcome to Columbus. I'm sure there were other offers out there, what was it that made the Crew appealing?
Chris Birchall: Really, it was the amount of interest that (the Crew) put in me. I heard they were trying to get me ever since last season. It was nice to feel wanted and I knew that they wanted to bring me here. The only reason why it took a bit longer than usual was really I had to think what was best for my family and with my fiancé and my three-year-old boy. I moved back to England, so it was just the case of choosing what was right at the end of the day we all decided that Columbus was the right move.
CS: Obviously, you played with Frankie Hejduk last year, he's here in the front office now, and you've played with Julius James on the Trinidad & Tobago National Team. How did they help influence your decision?
CB: Frankie was one of the best guys I've ever met when he came LA. We became close with his family and we became close. He's only ever said good things about the club. When you hear nice things and you know people on the team it makes the decision a bit easier. You know you're not going in completely not knowing anyone. Like I said, they've been friends and they only had good things to say about the Crew.
CS: We've had several famous Trinidad & Tobago National Team players play here in Columbus including Stern John, Ansel Elcock, Julius James and a few others. What's it mean to follow in their footsteps, carrying on that tradition?
CB: I just hope I can carry on the tradition, really. My thoughts are really just do the best I can and play well for the Crew and do what I was brought into the club for. I do know Stern very well, he is a close friend. I know how much he loved his time here and I think the fans loved him as well with how well he did when he was here. He was another person I spoke to in the past few weeks. He only had good things to say. When a lot of people are saying good things about Columbus, it was very easy to make a decision.
CS: You're coming off an MLS Cup victory with LA. How can you bring that winning mentality to the Crew locker room?
CB: Really, I mean I still keep in touch with the boys in LA. I've got a few good friends there. To be honest, it wasn't just the playing side. We had a great team spirit. A couple of the guys said they missed me in the dressing room, it means a lot. It's not just your ability on the pitch, people like you being around and in the locker room as well. I think that's one of the problems with LA at the moment, they've brought into a mix of players and the team spirit is not as high as it was last year. That's another thing that I'm trying to do here is just come in and work myself in on the pitch and try and bring some banter and some good humor into the dressing room because that's really my personality. I can get on with anybody and I'm down to earth and I like to have a laugh at the same time.
CS: You haven't played since MLS Cup. What have you been doing to stay fit and how far away do you feel you are from being match fit?
CB: I was training for two or three months with my local team back in England, which is Port Vale where I started my career. Up to about five or six weeks ago, I was training with them. But when you haven't trained soccer match fit for five or six weeks, it does take its toll and its time to get back. I really hope it doesn't take quite long to get me match fit. I don't know what the idea or the schedule is for me. Whether it's to get me a little bit fit first and then throw me in or whether it's to throw me in and try to get me match fit as quick as possible. I really won't know until I speak with (Crew head coach Robert Warzycha), but I'm hoping that it's not longer than a few weeks.
CS: And when you finally do get on the field, what do you feel you can bring to the Crew's midfield?
CB: Just really my style, which a lot of MLS has seen. It's really just trying to do the dirty work and win the balls back and put some good tackles in and just be that kind of anchor between the defense and midfield. My best position is defensive midfield, even though I can play on the right. I think really just to win a lot of tackles and win the balls and get the ball to the attackers that can do the damage really.