For the first in a series of interviews with 2013 team award winners, HoustonDynamo.com spoke with Young Player of the Year, Warren Creavalle.
His teammates call him “The Octopus”. He’s often dubbed a “utility man”. But Warren Creavalle’s favorite description of himself is “starting midfielder”, which succinctly sums up what he became in the most crucial stretch of the 2013 season.
Selected by the Dynamo in the second round of the 2012 SuperDraft, the 23-year-old logged five starts and seven substitute appearances in his rookie year and quickly became known for his athleticism and versatility.
His performances this year enhanced that reputation, as he covered plenty of ground to close down opponents and break up the play across five positions in defense and midfield. But after Adam Moffat was traded to the Seattle Sounders in September, Creavalle was entrusted by head coach Dominic Kinnear to start in central midfield on a more regular basis.
He repaid that faith with a succession of solid displays that saw him preferred to new arrival Servando Carrasco for MLS midfield duties alongside Ricardo Clark. Creavalle started the last ten games of the regular season and each of the Dynamo’s five playoff games, shouldering the main defensive responsibility in the center of the field for the crucial Eastern Conference Championship second leg against Sporting Kansas City, when Clark was absent through injury.
Of course, Creavalle is still ready to fill in wherever the team needs him. But he enjoyed the sense of stability that came from being selected in the same position week-in, week-out. “I’m definitely happy to be settled into a position in central midfield. If need be, I’ve always been a team player, so will settle into different positions,” he said.
“Personally I feel like I’ve progressed a lot from my first year to my second year and that’s overall the goal. I was very happy with that, with the amount of starts and chances I had.”
Creavalle made 17 starts and 10 substitute appearances in the MLS regular-season, contributing three goals and one assist. He said that logging minutes in first team games was a crucial factor in his development. “It’s where you get all your experience from, it’s where you prove yourself,” he said.
Midfielder Andrew Driver told MLSsoccer.com in July that Creavalle is known as “The Octopus” in the lockerroom because of his fast feet, which seem to extend at all angles in a blur like the sea creature’s arms, making him hard to get past.
Next season it looks like Creavalle’s feet will be moving towards the opposition goal more often. “I’m working on making my offensive game better from the midfield, to become more of a two-way player,” he said.
Both Creavalle and Clark are better known for breaking up attacks than starting or finishing them, but each contributed vital goals this year. Creavalle scored three
times: against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Toronto FC and the Columbus Crew. His close-range, opportunist strike against Vancouver in March proved the match-winner and was his first professional goal.
“I had a few chances in the first half, I was hanging my head at half time but my teammates kept me going,” he recalled. “I got myself in the right place and ended up poking one in. It was a huge feeling of relief, happiness and accomplishment.”
Number two came only a month later and was one of the most dramatic and unlikely Dynamo goals of the season. With only 30 seconds left of stoppage time in the 94th minute at BMO Field, Creavalle headed in the equalizer from two yards and an ecstatic Bobby Boswell celebrated by lifting him up and roaring in delight.
“The team was fighting hard all game for that. Credit to the boys, they never say die.
At the corner kick, Ricardo shook me up: ‘let’s go, let’s make something of this’. He ended up heading it right to me, I flicked it on. It was a surreal moment,” said Creavalle.
Proud to win the award at Dynamo Celebration earlier this month, the recognition and the run of starts has given him increased self-belief. And the personal success he has enjoyed in 2013 has made him hungry for more.
“It definitely adds to my confidence but I’ll always feel the need to come in and prove myself, year-in, year-out,” he said. “I don’t take the job for granted, we have a lot of quality players and there’s no room for slouches.” Seeing the boundless energy he displayed during he season just past, it is hard to imagine he would ever take it easy.
Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London and reporter for SI.com, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian.