Columbus Crew: 2007 Season Preview

He should be the mascot, eh?

Past 2006 Season Wrap Big Questions after '06
My Thoughts on Columbus' '06 (Know my biases)

2006-07 Off-Season Changes
Soccer New England's Ins & Outs for most roster changes

Columbus Crew roster from (by the way, the Crew has the best profile photos in the league; Eddie Gaven’s, in particular, is a gem)

And now, the Future...

Key Men
Eddie Gaven - Expectations have followed this wee lad of 20 courtesy of a breakout year he had back in his teens with the now-renamed MetroStars. He’s a wild-card player with potential to wreck havoc on the opposition’s game-plan - that, or completely vanish from a game in some anonymous up-field perch.

Andy Herron - With so many young players in the attack, Herron comes to the Crew as both of a wizened veteran and a (semi-)proven quantity. If he can reach 10 goals with the Crew, focus on him should open up confidence-building opportunities for the young line he’s leading.

Chad Marshall - I didn’t remember this, but all the season reviews listed at the top of the page (including mine - if only briefly) mention that the Crew defense had a decent 2006. Marshall anchored that line (for the most part) and he’ll have to do so again this year for the Crew to succeed. Assuming Frankie Hejduk and Ezra Hendrickson hold up all right, Marshall’s job will have pretty little to do.

Ned Grabavoy - Below*, you’ll see why I almost didn’t list Grabavoy in this section; and nearly every ’06 season review made a big deal out of Duncan Oughton’s return to the team last September. But Grabavoy looked pretty sharp in the Pioneer Cup, which got me thinking that ol’ Ned could bring some much-needed cohesion and pacing to the Crew offense. They’ll still have Oughton for the grit, though.

Additional Assets
Spider-Monkey Power - This is the Crew. They don’t have assets, only questions. If I had to choose something, though, I’d say this is a young team, which should translate to ample energy. Because young males over-flow with hormones, and because I equate hormones with sexuality, and because I, for some reason, think of spider-monkeys whacking off in zoos when I think of over-flowing sexuality, I refer to this as “spider-monkey power.” least I explained it...

Real Depth - Last year’s injury bug seemed to produce at least one legacy: the Crew has bodies to burn at forward and midfield. What about quality? Well, that’s a wait-and-see thing, but I don’t think this team looks half bad.

Thin at ‘Keep - One can question the wisdom of waiving Jon Busch - Lord knows he did - especially with only two, relative unknowns left vying for the starting goalkeeper’s gloves. Bill Gaudette played fair amount last year, but 2007 will be only his third MLS season; his competition, Will Hesmer, is about to start his second. Maybe one of these guys will be the next Matt Pickens, but would you want to count on that?

Inexperience - Ah, the downside of youth, the spent spider monkey. Ezra Hendrickson is the oldest guy on this team and he’s 35; there’s also Frankie Hejduk who will turn 33 in August. There’s a smattering of 1970s birthdays after these two (Duncan Oughton), but it’s all 80s from there. As much as these guys will be able to run, they may run a bit aimlessly.

Scoring - There’s a decent amount, if not too much*, of offensive talent in the Crew midfield, even if some players haven’t quite established reputations of note. But the question marks get bigger and thicker as you move toward the opposition goal. Herron can hit devilish funks, Jason Garey, for all his promise, is only a second-year pro, some under-studies are first-year players, etc. etc. It’s not that the Crew will be the only “forward-light” team in MLS this season - there’s always Red Bull - but it’s also fair to say it’s not the regular model.

Injuries, Injuries, Injuries - Last year’s goal-keeping meltdown is only the most memorable symbol of the Crew’s injury woes, but they got beat up something awful last year - and all over the field. Unless it’s something in the water or the team physician subtly destroying the team from within, it seems unlikely that the Crew will struggle as badly this season. Then again, if the injury bugg bites again this year, especially a repeat plague on the 'keepers, what follows from here won’t hold for anything.

Prospects - Using Gambling Analogies
Think of the Pioneer Cup as the Wood Memorial, but, for the love of God, don’t think of Bellamy Road's routing of the field in 2005 or this analogy falls apart. At any rate, the Wood is one of the higher-profile “preps” for the Kentucky Derby and the point I’m making here is that I’m among those people who extrapolated a good season for the Crew out of the Pioneer Cup. It’s more than that game, of course; as in horse-racing, you’re looking at the sheen on the coat, that high, fine rump, that bit of moxie in the paddock. A straight bet to win might not pan out, but I’d certainly consider the Crew for your box bets.

Translation: Tough as the East should be, I like them for the playoffs.


Anonymous said...

The Crew's best defender is Marcos Gonzalez. He was the team MVP last year.

At keeper, Hesmer has been hurt most of the spring. The starting job will be contested by Gaudette and Gruenebaum. The Crew should have strong wing play this season with Virtuoso and Thomas. Gaven, Grabavoy, or perhaps Schelotto will be the key to the team's offense. Someone has to play well at CAM.

Juan said...

guillermo barros schelotto is the best player of boca juniors ever.