The Columbus Crew flexed their youth development bona fides on Wednesday, signing defender Ross Friedman and midfielder Matt Walker to Homegrown player contracts – and in the process matching FC Dallas for the league lead with seven Homegrowns on their active roster.
Friedman returns to the Crew after four standout seasons at Harvard University, while Walker arrives at the conclusion of his college career at Xavier University.
“I think these signings are a tribute to our youth development system and the type of players this club and this region are capable of producing,” said Crew sporting director and head coach Gregg Berhalter in a statement. “Matt Walker is a dynamic player that has the ability to turn in tight spaces and take players on one-on-one, and he fits the style that we want to play. Ross Friedman is a versatile player that can play a number of positions and has a tremendous work rate. Both players have good soccer minds, and they are strong additions to the first team.”
Both Friedman and Walker played on the Crew Juniors Super-20 squad that captured the 2011 national title, and Walker was a member of the U-19 McGuire Cup-winning side in 2012. They join fellow Crew Soccer Academy products Chad Barson, Matt Lampson, Ben Speas, Wil Trapp and Matt Wiet – who signed earlier this offseason – on the Black-and-Gold's 2014 roster.
Last season Barson, Lampson, Speas and Trapp set a record for number of Homegrown players in an MLS starting lineup when they took the field together against Real Salt Lake on August 24.
- Find more Crew news and updates at TheCrew.com
Friedman (5-foot-9, 155 lbs.), a native of Bexley, Ohio, logged 56 career appearances in four seasons at Harvard, recording two goals and 17 assists. His team-leading six assists as a sophomore earned him a nod for All-Ivy League honorable mention. He nearly doubled his career high assists number his senior season when he dished-out 10 assists and scored one goal in 17 appearances – all of which were starts. During Super-20 Finals play with the Crew’s squad, he was named to back-to-back All-Tournament Teams in 2011 and 2012.
Hailing from Batavia, Ohio, Walker (5-foot-6, 150 lbs.) made 79 appearances during his four-year career in Cincinnati at Xavier. During his tenure as a Musketeer, Walker scored 26 goals and added 24 assists, posting double-digit goal and assist numbers as a junior before finishing his senior season with nine goals and seven assists. In 2011, Walker was named Crew Soccer Academy’s Under-19/20 Player of the Year.