Jonathan Mensah - Columbus Crew SC
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How Columbus Crew SC leadership council are keeping team together

While the players may not be with each other training, the entire Columbus Crew SC squad is remaining as close as ever during self-isolation.

Phones are buzzing with texts and calls, ensuring the group don't feel alone. On top of Whatsapp group chats with no shortage of banter, club captain Jonathan Mensah revealed that the Crew's leadership council of seven guys each have three players that they call every day to check in with.

“It’s difficult, you know. We do our best," Mensah told reporters on a conference video chat. "The leadership council calls three players each, we check on them every day. It’s going well right now. ... It’s a group of seven players that have been on the team for a while, experienced guys on the team that have been around the league for a while. Just checking to see how guys are doing, physically and mentally. Even a guy like me on the leadership team, D [Darlington Nagbe], G [Gyasi Zardes] and other guys call me because I’m all by myself here." 

Throughout preseason, the group worked to gain chemistry with one another, as a big offseason saw Nagbe, Lucas Zelarayan, Vito Wormgoor and others arrive while former captain Wil Trapp and club legend Federico Higuain headlined the departures. Through two games of the 2020 season before the suspension, the club beat NYCFC at home and drew defending MLS Cup champions Seattle Sounders on the road -- an encouraging start to the campaign.

Behind Mensah and the leadership council, the Crew were well on their way to becoming a tight-knit group, one that they have every confidence of continuing even without seeing each other every day. 

“The guys who were on the team already made it easy for the new guys to fit directly into the team," Wormgoor said. "They made us comfortable, they made us one of them already. Unfortunately we’re not able to play the games right now, but we’re confident as a team.”

Wormgoor signed with the club after spending his career in the Netherlands and Norway, while Nagbe arrived in a blockbuster trade from Atlanta United. He's spent his whole career in MLS thus far. 

“Chemistry of the group is great," Nagbe added. "I don’t think it’s a tough thing having to check in on each other, seeing how each others’ families are doing. Coach [Caleb Porter] is keeping in touch with the players too, he tries to get in touch with everyone. For us it’s simple, we have group chats, jokes everyday.”

At home, the players with kids have no shortage of ways to fill time and explain the situation going on. For those with young kids, it can be challenging.

“I try to explain it to my son because he’s a little older, but they don’t really grasp the concept of everything," Zardes said. "I constantly have a bottle of hand sanitizer around, making sure they stay clean. The weather has been good so in the neighborhood a bunch of kids are out, but I have to tell them to keep their distance and that they can only play at home, they can’t go play at a friend’s house."

After team-curated workouts to keep fitness without training and helping his kids do their schoolwork at home, Zardes and his family are enjoying the added time together. 

“For us with families, the most important thing is keeping the kids occupied," Zardes said. "They have so much energy. We like to go outside, ride our bikes, play soccer outside. When we’re indoors and not teaching them, we’re playing board games and other things, just to keep them occupied. Kids are so energetic.”