After Crew SC’s first day of practice for its game Friday against the Chicago Fire, coach Gregg Berhalter wasn’t ready to name a replacement for suspended midfielder Mohammed Saeid.
He dropped some hints, however. With vice captain Wil Trapp still unavailable as he recovers from a concussion and Saeid out after picking up two first-half yellow cards Saturday in a 2-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes, Berhalter all but named fourth-year veteran Kevan George as the next man up.
“It (will be) someone who knows how to play that position, someone who’s played it before that clearly understands the responsibility both offensively and defensively,” Berhalter said. “And then it’s about giving guys chances. We’ve played a lot of different guys this year, and for the most part, they’ve stepped up and done well. It will be another chance for a guy to step in and hopefully do well.”
A second-round Major League Soccer draft pick in 2012, George has made 24 appearances for the Crew, and all but two have come at defensive midfielder. No other available player has as much MLS experience at the position.
With only three days of practice before the first Friday game of the season, Berhalter said a decision will be made by Thursday. During practice Tuesday, only George was seen with the starters while reporters were present.
“He’s good on the ball and he’s confident,” said Tony Tchani, who will pair with Saeid’s replacement in the middle of the field. “He’s a guy that’s very physical. He covers a lot of ground. I’ve played with Kevan a few times in the past few years, and it won’t be something new.”& amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; lt; /p>
Two weeks ago, Saeid came off during the second half of a 3-2 win over the Seattle Sounders at Mapfre Stadium. Instead of replacing him with George, Berhalter moved central defender Michael Parkhurst to the position and filled Parkhurst’s spot with veteran Tyson Wahl. Parkhurst is an option to resume that role against the Fire, Berhalter said, but he has not practiced in that role.
Homegrown rookie Ben Swanson, still in the process of finishing his junior year at Grove City High School, plays the position but has yet to start.
“I’m not exactly sure (he’s ready),” Berhalter said. “I guess that means I’m not exactly convinced that he can do it right now. He’s a guy that’s been making a ton of progress, but I just don’t know if he’s at the level right now to put him in the game.”
George has two appearances totaling 43 minutes this season, 29 of which came Saturday against the Earthquakes.
It might not be the only change to the starting lineup. On Tuesday, Kristinn Steindorsson replaced Ethan Finlay at right midfield and Chad Barson replaced Hector Jimenez at right back on the first team.
Assuming George does get the nod, Parkhurst said Chicago will feel his impact.
“He’s probably the toughest tackler on the team, him and (Emanuel) Pogatetz,” he said. “He’s strong. Don’t get confused by his slight build. Guys will feel him in the game. He’s got that physical presence. He’s tough as nails, so he’ll give us some good bite in there.”