COLUMBUS, Ohio – Categorizing defender Kwaku Nyamekye is not easy.
He’s a Harvard economics major who opted to finish his schooling last year rather than turn pro after being selected by the Crew in the 2010 SuperDraft. But to question his commitment to soccer would be misguided because he spent part of his winter break from Harvard a year ago training with the Rangers of the Scottish Premier League.
And for parts of the second half of the 2010 season, the 23-year-old central defender even practiced with Columbus when it appeared for a while that he might receive a contract.
When Nyamekye finally signed with the Crew last week, he joined the six 2011 draftees for preseason camp. But he doesn’t really consider himself a rookie.
“I don’t know how to categorize myself,” he said. “It’s weird because I’ve been with the team a total of four months or so, but I haven’t been officially on the team until now. I’ll let the team decide exactly what my status is.”
How about rookie-plus?
“Maybe,” coach Robert Warzycha said. “He knows everybody. That’s basically one of the steps when you go to a new team. He has an advantage over the other new guys.”
The newcomers look to Nyamekye for guidance given the defender's experience.
“Since we’ve been in camp, [the rookies] have been asking the players who’ve been a little more familiar with the team, including myself, how to go about, just getting around Columbus,” he said. “They look to me for advice, but I don’t consider myself the senior guy on the team that every guy should look up to.”
Nyamekye spent about 10 weeks last summer training with the Crew, but from the onset, there wasn’t a roster spot.
When defender Jed Zayner was traded to D.C. United in early August, the team wanted to sign Nyamekye. But because some medical matters weren’t resolved by the Sept. 15 roster deadline freeze, the club instead signed defender Josh Williams.
“There were a couple of medical questions that I had to have checked,” Nyamekye said. “It took a couple of weeks. All that is good now.”
Once Nyamekye was cleared to play, he resumed training with the Crew until the end of the season in hopes of securing a deal for 2011.
Signing him became more important after center back Eric Brunner was plucked by Portland in the Expansion Draft.
The Crew hope Nyamekye, who stands at 6-foot-1 and weighs 200 pounds, can be a solid backup in central defense for Chad Marshall and Andy Iro.
“It’s up to him to perform,” Warzycha said. “I’m not going to say he will take anybody’s spot, but he will help the team because the season is so long and we have so many games.”
“I make fun of him because he Tweets too much. He’s not big-time enough to Tweet like he does.”
– Cole Grossman on fellow rookie Justin Meram’s use of Twitter.