Editor’s note: In our daily MLS 2011 Preview, the next team to be reviewed and analyzed is Columbus Crew. Will the Rodney Dangerfield of MLS be able to earn more respect in 2011? Read Kristan’s preview and predictions…
The Columbus Crew
Stadium and Location
The Columbus Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Coach (with record as MLS coach)
Robert Warzycha (POL)
2010 LEAGUE RESULTS: Pts: 50 Record: 14-8-8 2nd in the Eastern Conference.
2010 REVIEW: Last season was a good one for Colubmus in the Eastern conference. Finishing second only to the New York Red Bulls the team racked up 50 points in what was coach Robert Warzycha’s second season as Head Coach. The Pole had Argentine Guillermo Barros Schelotto to thank for his contributions, leading both the goals and assists table for the club the veteran proving his class once again. His cause was helped by midfielder Eddie Gavan’s assits and fuzzy haired forward Steve Lendhart chipping in with 6 goals. The highest scorers in the East The Crew will want to focus on defensive strength this campaign as they let in 31 goals last term.
ROSTER ADDITIONS: It’s all change in the Columbus ranks with a many a new face joining the Ohio side. Much travelled Jeff Cunningham makes a return to where it all began, no doubt brought in to fill the striking void left by Schelotto. Warzycha has also looked to draw on his Eastern European knowledgebase with the acquisition of Serb, Dejan Rusmir. The poor defensive record has looked to be addressed with Chilean defender Sebastian Miranda coming in to sure up the back line alongside youngster Josh Balchan. The Super Draft saw The Crew pick up Kwaku Nyamekye, defender Ben Sippola, Venezualan Bernardo Anorl and Cole Grossman who made his debut in the CONCACAFF Champions League against Real Salt Lake. USA U-20 defender Korey Veeder joins alongside 26 year old goalie Ray Burse, the host of new faces meaning it’s very much all change for The Fighting Canaries.
ROSTER SUBTRACTIONS: It’s difficult to look past Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s departure. The veteran surprisingly deemed surplus to requirements despite a strong season last year. Fellow Argentine Gino Padula was also let go and Duncan Oughton announced his retirement from the game at 33. The quartet of ageing departures was complete with former Captain Frankie Hejduk moving cross country to LA Galaxy. Steve Lenhart moved to San Jose Earthquakes and defender Eric Brunner joins the Portland Timbers along with Scotsman Adam Moffat. The outgoings were rounded off with Brian Carroll joining the Portland Timbers on the back of his playoff penalty miss.
PROJECTED STARTERS: Tuesday’s CONCACAFF Champions League game saw a continuation of last year’s 4-4-2 with the ball being played out wide often. FORWARDS: Emilio Renteria and Andrés Mendoza provide strength and pace in the attack and complimented well with goal scorer Jeff Cunningham give The Crew a strong attacking trio that could see them continue their good goal scoring form of last season.
MIDFIELD: The explosive prospect Emmanuel Ekpo will look to provide the attacking threat with Cole Grossman likely to sit back and hold. The wide positions pick themselves with Eddie Gavan and US international Robbie Rogers on the left and right respectively.
DEFENSE AND GOAL: 26 year old Raymond Burse sits behind a centre back pairing of Englishman Andy Iro and youngster Rich Balchan. Josh Gardener was deputized to left back for the game against Real Salt Lake with Chilean Sebastian Miranda making up the back four.
KEY PLAYER: It would seem Jeff Cunningham has been brought in to replace star man Guillermo Barros Schelotto. His goals record speaks for itself and despite starting on the bench against Salt Lake he will no doubt be the spearhead for The Crew’s attack.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Nomadic Frenchman Leandre Griffit comes with one Swedish Championship to his name and a lot of potential. At 26 it’s now or never for the former Southampton trainee who started last year well and is highly rated by the club’s fans after moving to Ohio from Belgian club Centre.
OUTLOOK: It’s very much a year of transition for Colubmus, out with the old and in with the new younger squad members. A promising early start to the season was ruined with a first round playoff defeat. Headcoach Robert Warzycha is now entering his third season in charge and has used the off season to fully stamp his mark on the club with a host of his own additions. The true test for Columbus will be whether they have managed to address the failings of last term. A shakey defence still looks weak and inexperienced and while I predict a good Eastern Conference performance I think they will struggle come the play offs.
PREDICTION: 52 pts, 2nd Eastern Conference