MLS Season Preview: Columbus Crew

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It wasn't too long ago when the Columbus Crew was considered one of the premier teams in MLS, a perennial title contender. A good bet to add to its 2008 MLS Cup.

Times have changed in Ohio, along with the roster. Guillermo Barros Schelotto has gone back to Argentina, Frankie Hejduk is back in California and several other key players were cast aside by a Crew front office eager to change up a team that had been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs the past two seasons.

Here is my Fox Soccer preview on a team that looks destined to struggle to recapture its championship form amid a host of new faces.

Here are some more thoughts on the Crew as Columbus heads into the 2011 season: 

2011 COLUMBUS CREW 

They'll win because: Jeff Cunningham recaptures his Golden Boot form and the Crew's rookie class produces an impact player or two.

They'll lose because: Cunningham posts one of his down years and Columbus fails to find a replacement for Guillermo Barros Schelotto's playmaking and leadership.

Player who could break out: Dilly Duka

Player who could regress: Andy Iro

Player who needs to improve on 2010: Robbie Rogers

Newcomer to watch: Rich Balchan

Projected Finish: Columbus still has enough talent to compete in the weak Eastern Conference, but at best the Crew could push for third or fourth place in the Eastern Conference and a playoff spot in the 8-10 range. At worst, the Crew could wind up missing the playoffs altogether.

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Think the Crew has enough left to be a threat in the East? Agree that Columbus is destined for a down year? Still wondering why Columbus got rid of so many starters?

Share your thoughts below.

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11 Responses to MLS Season Preview: Columbus Crew

  1. Frank says:

    It will definitely be a down year. Ekpo and Rogers will continue to show some talent but not enough to make the Crew a contender. Injuries will make a bad situation even worse. Playoffs would be great but I just don’t see it happening with this USL-roster.

  2. stpauljosh says:

    I’m still bummed I won’t be able to watch GBS in MLS this year. I always looked forward to watching him.

  3. Matt says:

    This Crew team is really flying under the radar. Ives: you fail to mention Andres Mendoza and Emilio Renteria. They are the first choice strikers and much of the offensive load will fall on their shoulders. Jeff Cunningham was brought in to be a spot starter and super-sub. Absolutely agree with your assessment of Dilly Duka, and I believe Rich Balchan could also be a break out player. This team could be very good, maybe not as good as NYRB and HOU in the East, but still a contender.

  4. steve says:

    its funny columbus has all the right players but aren’t useing them in the right spots, you can tell after watching there lasted game, gaven is a simple soccer pro and will always be so he not for the center mid, rogers below average pro and when u look at his state who in europe would by this player just run and cross how many americans can do that, ekpo shows talent and has speed but plays with one foot hes not a center mid, hes better on the sides with gaven,but duka show in the 15mins he came in that he has alot of talent, good ball skills and for an american cut up three real salt lake players up like they weren’t even there, he shows that he can play with both feet, he can go left or right and haven’t the crew tryed him the center mid, or are they still trying to keep them hidden like lasted season

  5. Czo13 says:

    I will agree with you, but Gaven is more than just an average pro. He, when given the right role…ie center mid is a phenomenal player. He has good vision, and never stops working. I have said it all along about Rogers though, he isn’t that good of a player and Ekpo can only use one foot, he is totally useless with his other one.

  6. DC Josh says:

    I have a feeling Eddie Gaven will have a great season like Stu Holden did for the Dynamo 2 years ago when DeRosario left for Toronto. I’m not so sure about the rest of the Crew.

  7. Frank says:

    Big mistake letting GBS guy go. Like Blanco, even at his age there are few players that are comparable. The league needs to keep guys like this around to show the youngsters how it is done.

  8. Clint D says:

    Gaven is not phenomonal..Average at best with little creativity.

  9. Burt says:

    It’s hard to believe this team was so good just a couple of seasons ago…

  10. steve says:

    Player like Gaven and Rogers are great for Columbus and MLS, but will disappear if they ever transfer to a EPL team or European team. No EPL manager would even consider buying or even taking them on loan.There not good enough for there. Stu Holden is an exception he is a better player then Rogers and Gaven.

  11. Cobra says:

    They are going to have trouble scoring all year. I loved Warzycha as a player, but I’m questioning him as a coach and talent evaluator. The crew will be bland and frustrating to watch because they have no creativity.Renteria, Mendoza and Cunningham are quality strikers, but who can get them the ball in dangerous situations? The defense will be solid. They should make the playoffs (seed 6-10) but will do little there. I don’t disagree with the roster changes except GBS. Warzycha didn’t like him from day one. He questioned Sigi about him the first practice GBS was there. Warzycha will either look like a genuis by mid season or be in hot water. I’m guessing the latter. The city of Columbus does not support losers very long and management won’t be patient if they start losing fans. I hope my gut feeling is completely wrong.