MLS Training Camp Preview: Columbus Crew

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By JOSE M. ROMERO

PHOENIX — As training convenes in Phoenix for the Columbus Crew, there are plenty of unanswered questions. 

Most of the questions surround the team's roster, which has undergone a major overhaul, making it easy to wonder just who are all of these guys. There's a core group of players that have remained, holdovers from the 2008 MLS Cup championship season — Wil Hesmer, Chad Marshall, Eddie Gaven, Robbie Rogers and Danny O'Rourke. But it seems clear that a lot of new faces will have to step forward and contribute for the Crew to make a fourth straight trip to the MLS playoffs.  

Add to all of that the fact that coach Robert Waryzycha has less than a month to get his team ready for the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals against Real Salt Lake. 

Here's a closer look at the Crew's pre-season in Arizona:

COLUMBUS CREW

Length of stay: Jan. 29-Feb. 18 at Reach 11 complex, Phoenix.

Training game/scrimmage schedule: Feb. 5 vs. Sporting KC, Feb. 8 vs. Vancouver, Feb. 10 vs. Seattle, Feb. 14 vs. Colorado, Feb. 17 vs. Houston.

Key Arrivals: D Sebastian Miranda, F Justin Meram, F Tom Heinemann

Key Departures: F Guillermo Barros Schelotto, D Eric Brunner, D Frankie Hejduk, F Steven Lenhart, M Brian Carroll.

What to watch for: Heinemann, a young prospect who was one of USSF-2's better scorers, is recovering from minor knee surgery and has yet to train. Will Jeff Cunningham, one of the greatest scorers in MLS history and a player interested in signing with the Crew, fit into the Crew's plans? The new-look Crew have many questions to answer in terms of finalizing its roster, and perhaps the biggest hole to fill is the one left by the departed Schelotto. 

Of note: Nine players are gone from last year's team…Marshall, a central defender, is now the longest-tenured Crew player, going into his eighth season. Marshall is coming off offseason arthroscopic knee surgery.

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15 Responses to MLS Training Camp Preview: Columbus Crew

  1. JoeW says:

    I really have to question a lot of the movements the Crew have made (Individually and collectively). Schmid took time but he created a real team that played some outstanding soccer and was pretty consistent despite an inability to score (before the team finally put it together and won a championship). I get that maybe Hejduk and Schelotto were “too old” in management’s vision. But Brian Carroll too? This is a complete remake of the team, and it’s now completely Warzycha’s team (or to put it another way, it’s absolutely not schmid’s team anymore). The only way to feel comfortable going into this season is to believe that Warzycha and the rest of the braintrust is really good at the personnel piece, has a coherent vision and can be trusted to build the team. And that seems like a big jump to me.

  2. three11stu says:

    As an RSL fan, I cannot think of a team that I would rather play in the CCL than Columbus. In the last 2 years, it seems to me that this has kinda blossomed into a little rivalry.

    RSL struggles in Columbus, so it should be a very good game. I expect RSL to at least get a point over there, as RSL is pretty much keeping the same squad, while Columbus is workin on some new players.

  3. Myles B says:

    Looking forward to finally getting a victory over the Crew this year. The “overhaul” of your roster will be very beneficial to us. Sincerely, Toronto.

  4. Val S says:

    the crew have become sort of like the Twins in baseball, no matter what they seem to be always competing for the most part. It should be interesting to see if what Warzycha and his management actions, how this team will be this year. I dont think they will be nearly as good as last year and as a redbull fan, I dont mind see it. But Columbus has some very great fans and hopefully they wont drop too much.

  5. Val S says:

    Also, for all the bashing that the crew take for their logo, I for one LOVE IT. I think it is a great logo and one that will go down as one of the most recognizable ones in MLS and soccer here in North America.

  6. Oranje Mike says:

    Where can I get information on pre-season matches in Phoenix aside from the Crew matches? I can only make it to one of those games. I’d like to see a full schedule if possible.

  7. SilverRey says:

    I think the Crew may be the perfect example of being a victim of there own success in the eyes of the MLS. All of the structuring to keep parity in the league came down full force on 2010 Crew. All of the bonuses (which count toward the cap in the next year) received by setting up a culture of winning consistently caught up with them.

    That and I think Robert didn’t want to have one more year with everybody calling it ‘Sigi’s Team’…

    Here’s hoping everyone gels and we can find a CAM. It sounds like Cunningham is motivated to end his career in a Crew uniform, make it happen!!

  8. Russ says:

    Ah, team team everyone has seemed to forget about for next year. I’m staying optimistic.

    1) They appear to be stockpiling allocation money (got some for Garey, got some for Lenhart).

    2) Who’s to say Renteria-Mendoza doesn’t turn out to be the best strike partnership in MLS next season? They both appear to have the skillset, but didn’t get a lot of time together on the field since Coach Bob insisted on playing GBS as a withdrawn striker.

    3) The midfield still contains 3 of the best young mids in MLS (Rogers, Gaven, Ekpo). If Balchan works out as a destroyer mid, Ekpo-Gaven-Balchan-Rogers looks pretty nice to me.

  9. Kevin says:

    Agreed. I feel like I am one of the only people who actually applauded the release of the old guard.

  10. Jose Romero says:

    Mike: Check the RSL preview I did earlier (in archives) for dates of their games, and I’ll be filing more preview with game dates of other teams.
    Thanks for reading,
    -Jose

  11. Mattmatumbo says:

    As long as they can throw Gaven between the posts, I think the crew will be fine.

  12. JSF says:

    Mark Blades could be an impact player this year or least making the roster!

  13. Will says:

    Awful acquisitions/departures, awful draft, lost their sponsor…This team is done, but you cant take away that title

  14. Pendle says:

    Gaven is overrrated…but Renteria needs a chance

  15. TM says:

    You are an idiot! Please throw your computer away.