2016 has been a pretty good year if you’re Warren Creavalle. Last season was a bit tumultuous, with him making just 14 appearances with Toronto FC before being sent to the Philadelphia Union - his third club in two years. His arrival in Philadelphia saw him only get five more appearances, and behind Brian Carroll and Maurice Edu on the depth chart, 2016 seemed like it would be more of the same.
“I wasn't exactly sure what to expect going into (2016), you know?” Creavalle told me on Tuesday, “Coming in last year I was used kind of sparingly, and had a good talk with Jim and the coaching staff at the end of the year. They had a lot of good things to say as far as what I can expect in the next year. I took from that just to be ready and prepare myself the best I could, and if there was ever an opportunity for me I'll be prepared for it and make the most of it.”
And make the most of it he did.
With Maurice Edu being injured, playing time at central defensive midfield became available. Creavalle seized the opportunity, and had a solid season with the playoff-bound Union. At the conclusion of this year, he’d amassed career highs in minutes (1807) and starts (21) and became a fixture in the midfield. He credits working with Brian Carroll and Maurice Edu for helping mentor him on the nuances of the position.
“I got to play a lot of games this year with BC,” he said. “I think that was it. For me, he's one of the smartest players that I’ve played with and his longevity in this game is very telling of that. So for me to be able to play alongside of him was definitely a great thing for myself personally and the team.” Edu’s leadership helped as well. “As far as Mo, even when Mo came back in training he is one of those players that he loves to give. He wants to bring up younger players around him and is really trying to take on that mentoring role and lead by example in training as well through his attitude.”
The mentoring paid dividends not just with the Union, but also when he got his first international call-up with Guyana - although it didn’t necessarily go as smooth as you’d imagine.
“I think the first point of contact was from the team manager (Jamal Shabazz), and he called me from an unknown number so I didn't really know who it was to answer,” he says, laughing. “He ended up texting me saying ‘Is this Warren? Is this the right number?’ We spoke shortly after that.”
“A few years prior to that I'd actually met somebody who was with the (Guyana Football Federation) program through (Creavalle’s Houston Dynamo teammate) Ricardo Clark. He kind of mentioned getting involved with it at that point, but we didn't really speak on it in depth and just kind of resurfaced a few years later. It was a teammate Brandon Beresford, whose dad is affiliated with the team and helps them out a lot. They have a very strong relationship with Ricardo Clark who's around that area in Atlanta, and I actually met him at his (Clark's) 30th birthday party. It's just kind of a small world kind of thing.”
His first match with Guyana was a special moment, but much like actually getting the call-up it wasn’t as smooth as one would necessarily have imagined it to be. “I went down there a day or two after I picked up a rib injury with the Union, so I wasn't even sure if I was going to be able to play. It was just a kind of mix of emotions the timing just seems very off for me at that time, but I ended up being able to get through it and make progress as far as the injury. I was really up for making my debut with them.”
The first match was the match where 18 year old goalkeeper Kai McKenzie-Lyle of English League Two side Barnet FC scored a goal in extra time against Guyana’s neighbor Suriname.
“He came up on the last corner - you know, a last ditch effort. He's the biggest player on the field, and it's just kind of throwing him up there off the corner and he got his head on it. It was a pretty good moment there just to get it all back. Every goal is crucial at that point.”
Unfortunately Guyana would lose that match 3-2 and had to face Caribbean powerhouse Jamaica in their next match. This match would provide a little extra for Creavalle, as he got to play against his friend and teammate in Philadelphia Andre Blake.
“It was fun. It was good seeing a familiar face as your adversary. It was calming for me seeing him and Je-Vaughn Watson. It was a fun opportunity,” he says before adding “I wish I could have dropped a goal on him though.”