The Carlstad Crusaders are defending their 8th consecutive title this season. To the casual fan, this accomplishment can easily be seen as boring, or lack of competition from other teams. I promise you, that is NOT the case with the Crusaders. The Carlstad team has been successful because “winning is a habit.” While some teams in the Super Serien are making changes to beat the Crusaders, the defending champs are working harder than ever to keep that target on their backs.
The Crusaders are returning most of their key players this season, in addition to last year’s entire coaching staff. The biggest change to the team has been the offseason strength coach, Sebastian Johansson. Players and coaches alike have noticed an increase of speed, strength, and athleticism within their team this offseason. To be the best you have to beat the best, so the Crusaders are competing with the man in the mirror.
The 2017 Super Serien MVP, Philip Juhlin, will once again lead the offense that ranked #1 in the Super Serien last season. At his disposal are arguably the best receivers in Sweden, Marcus Johnsson and Jacob Dahre. Rising young receiver Robin Juhlin is also expected to contribute to the offensive explosion this season. Christian Forsman and Victor Toresson will handle the rushing duties for the Crusaders, and UK import Natal Melero is expected to see some time at wideout as well. The Carlstad offense is only getting better from last season, adding size and strength to an already talented squad. It’s not the most sexy preseason update for a football team, but as receiver Marcus Johnsson has stated “if it aint broke why fix it.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Crusaders have made some interesting changes. Bringing in defensive lineman Josh Hill, and defensive back Julius Rucker from the US to add some immeasurable experience to an already talented defense. Led by the 2017 linebacker of the year, Christian Kuylenstjerna, the Carlstad defense looks to be dominant in 2018. Linebacker Mattias Eriksson and defensive back Martin Ullbrandt will also be contributing to the Crusaders defensive prowess. Of course its expected to see Natal Melero supporting the defense too, playing the role of two-way player for the defending champions.
When a team has the type of success that the Crusaders have had, they tend to expand their ambitions. This is true with the 8-time champions as well, as they seek recognition as one of the top teams in Europe in addition to another Super Serien title. Not capturing an European league title the last two years has been the chip on the shoulder the team uses to continue its winning habits year-round. But that by no way means the team isn’t ready for the Super Serien task that lies ahead.
“We don’t want to let down our opponents by playing a bad game, so we always need to go 100%” – Marcus Johnsson, WR
TALKING TO THE PLAYERS
A few players from the Crusaders team were kind enough to give some insight about the upcoming season.
“I think our disappointing performance on the European stage last year will act like fuel on a fire. The European championship is definitely a big motivation for us. I also feel like there is a sense of pride regarding the history of our team, being one of the younger players myself. Past players laid the foundation for our reign over the past years, but it is up to us younger players to prove that we are here to stay, and that is a big motivating factor for me.” – Mattias Eriksson, Linebacker
“I don’t think the crusaders are happy with 8 SM golds. We want to be the best in everything and of right now Stockholm has more golds then we do. So the motivation is simple, to get more national Championship wins than any other team. The goal is just to stay undefeated and bring Home the Gold to Carlstad again.” – Marcus Johnsson, Wide Receiver
“The goal is to win every single game we play. We want to be the best team in Europe and to be that we need to grow as an organization. We have to get more youth players, and get them to stay and play with the seniors. There are far too many talented players who stop playing after u19 and that’s something we need to work on.” – Christian Kuylenstjerna, Linebacker
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