Iro feels right at home in Columbus

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

Andy Iro had a lot of explaining to do to his friends and family back in England after being selected by the Columbus Crew in the Major League Soccer draft.

"Most of the people back home had never even heard of Columbus," said the UC Santa Barbara standout. "They knew all about New York and Los Angeles, but I had to fill them in on where it is I will be living."

Just days before beginning his first season in MLS, Iro is confident he has found a home away from home in Ohio under head coach Sigi Schmid.

COLUMBUS CREW

Columbus Crew
Columbus Crew

2007 RECORD:
9-11-10 (37 points), sixth in Eastern Conference, ninth overall. Missed MLS playoffs.

KEY MAN: Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Much of the Crew's success this season could depend on the mindset of their influential maestro. If Schelotto's head is right, he could provide the spark for a playoff challenge. If not, it could get ugly.

NEWCOMER: Andy Iro. Fans of college soccer already know all about Iro, but the Englishman is confident of becoming a big-time player in MLS. His strength, height and toughness should stand him in good stead in his first season.

OUTLOOK: The Crew has some reasonable depth, but unless Schelotto is firing they may lack the driving force to beat the top teams. They are capable of reaching the playoffs; they could also finish near the bottom of the league if things start to go bad.

After impressing in preseason, the big central defender is looking good to claim a starting place and has high hopes of making a strong impact for the Crew.

Iro decided his immediate future lies in MLS rather than his native England, despite some interest from several clubs in the United Kingdom. That meant he has had to adapt quickly to new surroundings and a novel environment in the Midwest.

"Initially, I was unsure of what to expect, but I do like it here and it reminds me of England quite a bit," Iro said of Ohio.

"It is like a new life that I am getting started and I am going to learn my trade for a couple of years in MLS.

"Long term, I would like to think I can get over and play for a top club in England. That is the ultimate goal for me."

Schmid identified Iro as someone who can add real strength to the Crew backline and hopefully help improve the club's ninth-place finish in 2007. This week, Argentine left back Gino Padula was also brought in, subject to visa approval.

Another Argentine, playmaker Guillermo Barros Schelotto, will be in the spotlight this season, following reports over the winter that he was keen to leave the Crew and return to South America.

Schmid is determined for his team to play an entertaining style, which suits Iro just fine.

"I am a big guy and I am strong and dominant in the air," the 6-foot-5 Iro said. "But playing in college has helped to develop my game. I am not just an old-fashioned English center-half who lumps the ball forward. I can play a bit as well."