Crew Cuts: Andy Iro's steady rise

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

When defender Andy Iro scored the Columbus Crew's first goal of the season Saturday in a 2-0 win over Toronto FC, the immediate consensus among the press corps was that Iro's glancing header was reminiscent of Chad Marshall.

The comparison is reasonable. Marshall, a prospect for the U.S. World Cup team and two-time defending MLS Defender of the Year, is injured, so Iro started Saturday as he usually does when Marshall is unavailable.

And just as Marshall's headers off of Guillermo Barros Schelotto's crosses have become a legendary part of Crew lore, Iro nodded home Schelotto's lofting free kick in the 29th minute.

"I've been watching Chad for a while now, and he times his runs very well," Iro said. "That's one thing I've been trying to work on since I got to the Crew, and I think it just all came together on that goal."

In a way, though, to call Iro's goal a mere Marshall impression is almost disrespectful to a player who's been steadily coming into his own since joining the Crew as a first-round draft pick out of UC Santa Barbara in 2008. (Not to mention Iro scored a similar goal against New England in 2008.)

Saturday's showing found Iro using his head on both sides of the ball. Toronto attempted an aerial attack on a day when Iro and fellow center back Eric Brunner controlled the skies.

"They played to my strengths," Iro said. "I feel pretty confident that I'm going to win that battle."

Coach Robert Warzycha agreed with Iro's assessment and was pleased with the defender's performance Saturday. Schelotto appreciated Iro's presence as well.

"He's very important on the set plays," Schelotto said.

Entering his third season in Columbus, the Liverpool native is making the best of it on and off the pitch. A city life fiend and compulsive traveler - he ventured through California, visited Spain and stopped home to England during the offseason - he's found a way to adjust to the Midwest's version of urban life.

"Columbus is a completely different town to what I'm used to," Iro said. "You just have to find your little niche, your group of friends, your places you like to go."

As for his soccer career, Iro hasn't racked up as much playing time for the Crew as he'd like, but he's hoping more performances like Saturday's star turn will help secure a continued spot in the lineup.

"As a professional, you want to play every game. The last two seasons I haven't got to do that," Iro said. "So hopefully if I step up my performance, that's noticed, and obviously that makes it a lot easier if you're playing week in and week out. So we'll see what happens."