Crew: 24 Under 24

By Columbus Alive
From the August 23, 2012 edition

MLS is including fan voting in its annual roundup of the league’s best young players, 24 Under 24. The Crew has 11 eligible players. Here’s a breakdown of who has a shot at inclusion, and who deserves it.

Rich Balchan, 23, D

Balchan is gritty and hard-working, and he probably could have cracked the list if he hadn’t been injured all season.

Dilly Duka, 22, M

If the voters overlook Duka, this is obviously rigged. Though his numbers aren’t that flashy (partially due to injury battles), his presence on the pitch has become remarkably mature over the course of three seasons in Columbus. He makes a difference.

Ethan Finlay, 22, F

Finlay has yet to really make his mark on MLS, so don’t expect to see him on this list.

Kevan George, 22, M

Though George worked his way into the starting lineup at the peak of the Crew’s injury swoon — and did an OK job in Danny O’Rourke’s stead — he hasn’t racked up a significant resume yet.

Cole Grossman, 23, M

Grossman has been in and out of the lineup, and although he unleashed a golazo for his first career goal Sunday in Houston, most folks probably wouldn’t consider him among the elite.

Aaron Horton, 20, F

One of the Crew’s homegrown signings who worked his way up through the club’s youth system, Horton hasn’t really played in anything other than the exhibition against English Premier League side Stoke City. He scored in that, so maybe the Crew should consider showing him some more meaningful action.

Matt Lampson, 22, G

Most backup keepers barely play, and Lampson is no exception.

Justin Meram, 23, F

For about a month there, Meram caught fire and seemed like the answer to the Crew’s offensive woes. He hasn’t produced since then, but that hot streak might be enough to land him on the 24 Under 24 list.

Aaron Schoenfeld, 22, F

Yet another talent whose development has been interrupted by injury, Schoenfeld contributed some quality minutes earlier this season but has been relegated to obscurity of late. Most folks around MLS probably don’t know him yet.

Ben Speas, 21, F

Ditto everything about Aaron Horton — the homegrown status, the goal against Stoke, the brimming potential. But again, he hasn’t played.

Tony Tchani, 23, M

Tchani might be the best-known name among the Crew’s youth brigade, so he’ll probably pick up votes based on name recognition alone. But he’s been as inconsistent as anybody.

Dispatch file photo: Crew midfielder Tony Tchani could rack up votes based on name recognition.