Columbus Crew coach Gregg Berhalter made it official this week that midfielder Ben Swanson, who was on loan to the Hounds, had surgery to repair damage to his ankle and would be placed on the injury list, and is now out five to seven months. It’s unlikely that Swanson will return this season.
This is an unfortunate blow for his club, Columbus Crew, for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, but mostly for the 19-year old homegrown product from Grove City, Ohio, it’s a bit of a snag in his overall development.
“This just adds to your experience and you know hopefully it can benefit you, motivate you,” Swanson told Columbus Dispatch earlier this week.
“Everyone’s career will face a rough patch and this is how you deal with it.”
Swanson, who signed with the Crew as a homegrown player in October 2014 as a 17-year-old, has had a chance to start to get pro experience in Pittsburgh with the Riverhounds starting last April, and again early this season.
He also made his lone Major League Soccer / Crew appearance as a substitute in a 3-2 loss at Philadelphia last June.
But now, both seasons have now been derailed by physical set-backs.
In 2016, it was a combination of coming down with mono right around the time of his high school graduation, then having dealt with an additional leg injury, he only saw scattered playing time for the Hounds in five matches.
This year started out differently for Swanson.
He came off the bench in the Hounds opener against NY Red Bulls, and looked very comfortable despite having to play in an attacking midfield role, replacing fellow Columbus Crew loanee Marshall Hollingsworth.
In the next game, in Pittsburgh against FC Cincinnati, Swanson was paired with Victor Souto as the starting central midfield combination, and the young, skillful duo were a bright spot for the Hounds in 1-0 loss.
Swanson got the start again alongside Souto on April 8 at Charleston, but only nine minutes into the match, the Battery’s Romario Williams connected with Swanson’s ankle — much to the chagrin of both of his coaches, Pittsburgh’s Dave Brandt, and Berhalter, who was critical of the officiating after he saw the replay later that week.
Swanson appeared to be on track to be building a more advanced role with the Riverhounds this season. While he’s disappointed, he understands that he will have a chance to come back even stronger.
“I’m only 19 right now. You look at guys that are just starting their career that are a little bit older,” Swanson said.
“It still doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s tough and it’s frustrating. You want to be playing, you want to be out there.”
The Riverhounds next match will be Saturday, April 22 at the Richmond Kickers. I will share my preview a new edition of BREAKING DOWN THE HOUNDS, late Friday.