The Crew: Dilly Duka
Last year, midfielder Dilly Duka was a boy among men, the youngest guy on a Crew roster full of veterans. That meant the rookie had the chance to learn a lot from his teammates. It also meant he felt a little left out.
At age 21 Duka's still the second youngest player on the roster this season. But the Crew saw a significant amount of roster turnover this offseason in an effort to get younger and faster, so now the locker room is packed with peers. And while the new-look Crew is still gelling on the field, off it the players are developing a camaraderie that suits Duka just fine.
"I'm a young guy, so I like to go out," Duka said. "We've got a young crew of guys, and we could be doing some damage in this town."
Lest comments like that make readers think Duka is a pure party animal, rest assured he was the last guy off the field at practice Tuesday. Duka stayed late to work on shooting with veteran striker Jeff Cunningham.
"You got a lot of off time as a soccer player," Duka said. "The longer I'm here, the more I keep busy. I'm young. Why not do it?"
The extra effort seems to be paying off so far. Duka was a bright spot in the Crew's first two games, and he looks poised to play a bigger role for Columbus this season. The former U-20 international hopes increased minutes will translate to attention from the senior U.S. squad - or his parents' native Albania.
In the meantime, he's focused on beating out his young teammates to maintain a starting spot with the Crew.
"It's definitely going to be a lot more fun," Duka said, "and a lot more competitive."
Dilly Duka's Favorite Things
Musician: Lil Wayne. "We were pretty pissed that he came into town when we were on the road."
Movies: Action and horror
Teams/athletes: New Jersey Nets, New York Jets, Rafael Nadal
Restaurant: The food carts off Park Street
Columbus Crew vs. FC Dallas
7:30 p.m. Friday, April 1
Crew Stadium, North Side