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Jul 302013

Wow! Talk about a bombshell!

For the first time ever, the Columbus Crew will not be operated by Hunt Sports Group. The team’s new overlord Precourt Sports Ventures is led by Anthony Precourt, a young financial guru based out of San Francisco.

At first this sounds like the kind of news many of us had been hoping to hear for several years. While Lamar Hunt himself was more than good to Columbus, his sons have largely ignored the MASSIVE club in favor of FC Dallas and the Kansas City Chiefs. We’ve cried out for change and our cries have been heard by the soccer gods.

Initially I had some pretty negative vibes coming from this announcement. Precourt was downright awkward during the press conference, reading straight from a piece of paper laid out in front of him. He spoke more about MLS as a league than the Crew specifically at first. Don Garber himself welcomed Precourt as the newest “MLS owner” and Precourt took over the official MLS twitter account Tuesday night instead of that of the Crew. Then there’s the fact that Precourt and his group are based out of San Francisco, more than halfway across the country. Precourt made it clear he is staying in San Francisco, though he did say he’d be buying a second home in Columbus.

What worried me more than anything else was that Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman almost sounded like he was trying to convince himself as much as the rest of us when he said Precourt told him the club would “absolutely” stay in Columbus. Notice how Coleman said it for Precourt rather than Precourt himself saying it explicitly. It’s no secret Columbus is one of the 3-4 financially weakest teams in the league. It’s also no secret that new cities are popping daily as prospective homes to future MLS clubs.

You wouldn’t be completely off your rocker to suggest Precourt is, at the very least, considering the possibility of moving the Crew out of Columbus in the future. After all, when Clark Hunt had to backtrack after admitting he wanted to sell the club, he simultaneously assured us that the team would only be sold to a local ownership group. San Francisco is hardly right next door to Ohio.

Then there’s the timing of this announcement. The Crew have suffered back-to-back extra time backbreakers to a mediocre New England side and Toronto FC. Not only did Toronto snap a 400+ minute scoreless streak against Columbus, but they also won their first game at home in over a year. The significance of these two most recent results for Columbus cannot be overstated.

So why make the announcement now?

Most people will say it was done to calm an increasingly restless fan base. But I don’t believe that’s entirely accurate. The Hunts had made it clear they wanted out way back in February. To officially sell the team (effective immediately) after the two worst losses of the season suggests the Hunts were desperate to leave.

But why would PSV be so eager to seal the deal? Surely these last couple results would make them think twice about purchasing this team…?

This had me worried initially, but Precourt has been speaking out since the press conference and he has started to say some reassuring things. He took over the MLS twitter account, but spent the entire time answering questions about the Crew specifically. He confirmed there would be upgrades to the East side premier seating. He talked about how much he enjoys the team name and colors but wants to take a long, hard look at the badge. He said he would assess the team from top to bottom and start making a plan, as well as some personnel changes, once the season ends.

The more I hear him talk, the more I think maybe he’s serious about Columbus. PSV is less than a year old and Precourt himself is isn’t even 50 years old. Maybe the reason he needed so much help speaking at the press conference was because he’s new to this idea of owning a sports team. The fellas at Massive Report made a good point about how owning a sports team is more of a hobby than anything else for really old men who have made their wealth from something other than sports.

Everyone has to start somewhere, right? Maybe Precourt is simply learning about owning a sports team on the fly.

Still, it’s also possible Precourt entered the MLS single entity under the pretense that he’d watch over the Crew in Columbus until the rest of the league figured out where to move them. Perhaps the league has an interest in the actual Bay Area and not just San Jose. Precourt may simply be biding his time until a new option presents itself. According Clark Hunt, this sale took less than a year with Precourt approaching them initially back in December of last year.

The only thing we know for sure right now is that there are way more questions than answers surrounding PSV’s purchase of the Crew and the timing of the announcement. We’ll also have to wait until the end of the season before we get any sort of answer to any of the questions we all have.

In the meantime I suggest rocking out to Snow Patrol’s “Take Back The City” in the hope that there are bright days ahead for the Crew.

In Columbus.

Jul 072013

Oh yeah, we’re doing this.

Columbus was robbed of a result against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Thursday night, but bounced back with a 1-0 victory over Portland Timbers on Sunday. Both games were pretty straight forward, so I thought it would be more fun (and productive) describe the results in Lord Of The Rings quotes.


Columbus Crew 1-2 Los Angeles Galaxy

-”One does not simply walk into Los Angeles and win. It’s black gates are guarded by more than just PRO Referees. There is evil there that does not suit up in white. The Great Don is ever watchful. It is a barren wasteland riddled with fire, ash, and dust. The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume. Not with 10,000 men could you do this. It is folly.” -Everyone

-”And you Robbie Keane. I give you the light of Sorin Stoica, our most beloved star. May he be a light for you in dark places, when you are trailing late in the game.” -Don Garber

-”Fool of a Sanchez! Throw yourself out next time and rid us of your stupidity (and temper)!” -Me

-Bruce Arena: “Do you know how the PRO Referees first came into being? They were students of the game once, taken by the dark powers, tortured and mutilated. A ruined and terrible form of life. Now…perfected. My fighting PRO Referees. Whom do you serve?”

Sorin Stoica: “Bruce Arena”

-”Look for my sign in the second half. In the 85th minute, look to the middle of the field.” -Sorin Stoica

-”We do not have the strength to fight both Robbie Keane AND Sorin Stoica!” -Andy Gruenebaum

-”I will take it! I will take the free kick that leads to our only goal. Though…I do not know who will finish it.” -Federico Higuain

-”If by set piece or from the run of play I can score a goal, I will. You have my head”-Bernardo Anor

Columbus Crew 1-0 Portland Timbers

-”Flogging Molly! The Flogging Molly are coming!” -90% of the crowd

-”Where is Konrad?? Where is my son?!” -Robert Warzycha

-”By all that you hold dear, on this good earth. I bid you: Stand! Men Of Columbus!” – Frankie Hejduk

-”It is in Aaron Schoenfeld we must place our hope.” -Robert Warzycha

-”You shall not pass!” – Matt Lampson

-”Oh yes. Word has reached my ears of this Guillermo, brother of Gustavo, and I tell you now: I will not bow to this ranger from the South!” -Robert Warzycha

-”I ask only for the ability to score goals!” -Aaron Schoenfeld

-”It’s a Trapp!” -Caleb Porter

(OK, OK that last one was Star Wars, but how could I not include it after Wil’s performance??)


Jun 302013


He’s not quite old enough to drink, but Wil Trapp can help the Columbus Crew find success this season.

The Columbus Crew signed Trapp, one of their Academy graduates, to a Homegrown deal in the offseason. Unfortunately, he has spent much time with the Crew organization. He has been competing for his country as he represented the United States U-20 squad in the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Trapp started all three of the US’s group games as a central midfielder and even wore the captain’s armband for one. His performance was simply average. He didn’t blow anyone away, but he also wasn’t terrible enough to lose his starting spot either.

Still, the youngster has a golden opportunity to help get the senior Crew team back on track.

The Crew just lost 3-2 away to Kansas City after scoring game-tying goals twice in the second half only to see their effort go unrewarded in the end. The entire organization appears to be wilting under the heat of a fan base that expected a much better start to the season. There are whispers of players questioning head coach Robert Warzycha and his rigid tactics/team selections. He is in the final year of his contract and his future with the team is unknown. The team continues to be the subject of rumors concerning player movement as the international transfer window opens. Such whispers persist, despite the front office reiterating that the team does not have the salary cap space to make a big move.

But the team does not need to look beyond their walls for help; they have it in the form of one of their Homegrown signings from this off-season. Trapp offers them a solution to one of their biggest issues: central midfield. Danny O’Rourke may be needed in central defense, Matias Sanchez has a temper that has already landed him a one game suspension due to yellow card accumulation. Tony Tchani and Konrad Warzycha leave a lot to be desired. Trapp, however, is a natural central midfielder. He is very comfortable on the ball for a player his age and is an excellent distributor who can also shoot from distance when needed.

Perhaps more important than his tactical fit into Warzycha’s preferred 4-4-1-1 formation is his work ethic. There was a point before the US U-20 team began their preparations for the World Cup in Turkey when Trapp came back to Columbus. Rather than take the  next day off after landing in Ohio very late the night before, he chose to train with the first team. He is mature and professional beyond his years. He knows exactly what it will take to earn a spot in the first team. Unlike many of his teammates, he is also too young to let his attitude be influenced by the coaching staff. Despite dressing with the first team occasionally, his age puts him at the bottom of the food chain. He has no choice but to completely set aside any sort of positive or negative feelings towards Robert Warzycha and, to a certain extent, the rest of the team. He will come in and work his ass off and he’ll do it without a single word coming out of his mouth. Because that’s the only way he’s getting playing time this year.

That is exactly the sort of influence this teams right now. They need something (or in this case someone) who can make them forget about all the recent poor results and the well documented shortcomings of their current head coach. Wil Trapp can help push this team through the adversity they are facing. He’ll make the guys around him work that extra little bit; after all, who wants to look lazy next to a kid who can’t buy himself a beer yet.

Whether or not Warzycha is willing to use Trapp upon his return from Turkey is unclear, but Trapp nearly earned his first appearance about a month ago when he was called up to the touch line to replace a shaken up Matias Sanchez, only to be waved off by the feisty Argentine.

Let’s hope that Warzycha can get at least ONE thing right and give this young man an opportunity to shine.

And while we’re dreaming, this formation would be ideal…


Williams – Marshall – Gehrig – Wahl


Higuain – Trapp

Oduro – Arrieta – Meram

Despite his temper, Sanchez is still the bulldog who dispossesses the opposing team so he needs to be tucked in behind Higuain and Trapp. Trapp has the technical ability to not only setup a three-man front line, but also to combine with the venerable Higuain in midfield. Justin Meram has the creative instincts to play out wide in a three-man forward line and Arrieta is the ideal point man in the middle.

This formation may be unconventional, but that doesn’t mean playing Trapp has to be. Time will tell if Warzycha decides to shake things up.

Jun 232013

It’s been several weeks since Brian Bliss essentially told everyone that there was no help coming in the international summer transfer window. It was easy to take him at his word because a) He’s Brian Bliss and b) the team really has no money left to spend despite a little bit of salary cap space.

Then around Monday afternoon of last week there were rumors swirling that the club was meeting with legendary Portuguese midfielder Deco, who is currently playing in Brazil with Fluminense. There was no immediate response from the organization, so we all continued to let our imaginations run wild. Then Robert Warzycha told us that there were options on the table to make this deal happen. And then Mark McCullers finally came out and said the team had not met with Deco at all.

Now, for all our concerns about the direction of this organization they have been, if nothing else, consistent from top to bottom. The message was always the same. The coaching situation was, if nothing else, stable. There was a pattern of bringing in young, hungry players who were willing to keep quiet in the media, keep their heads down, and go about working their tails off to get better.

And then suddenly the Deco situation happened. A terrible mess of mis-communication, suddenly we were all left to wonder why the situation unfolded the way it did. Then it took the team over 24 hours to confirm what we already knew: the marquee summer friendly would be newly relegated Wigan Athletic from England. The Latics had published the match date on Friday, the Crew refused to confirm that on Friday, and then finally confirmed it 24 hours later right before kickoff against Chicago.

Ah yes…the Chicago match.

Look, we all know it was a mess. After defeating league leaders Montreal 2-0, the Crew got off to a quick start before eventually giving the lead away. Not only that, but there was a season best crowd of roughly 19,600 to see it. Earlier in the week, the team tweeted that over 15,000 tickets had been “distributed”. Something tells me 19,600 fans did not pay their way into the stadium that night just for a post-game fireworks. And if they did, then we’re in more trouble than we thought.

All of this leads us to the question: Where is this organization as a whole headed?

The short answer: Nowhere.

But they aren’t without hope either. And that’s how Columbus has wound up in soccer purgatory. They are stuck with a mediocre team assembled by a mediocre coach while a mediocre general manager struggles to achieve goals as simple as 10,000 season ticket holders and a sponsorship deal for the naming rights of Crew Stadium. And despite all of that, this team still sits just below the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference in the standings. They still have a glimmer of hope, just beyond their reach.

The Hunts will cling to their faint hope in an effort to justify padding their bottom line as best they can before putting any more money into the Crew organization. They’ll continue to tell us this team just needs a bit of luck and some fortuitous bounces in order to contend. They’ll tell us that the team is just competitive enough to attract the local ownership we’ve desperately lacked. And when a solid crowd (let’s call it 17,500) turns out for the next home game against Portland just for the chance to see Flogging Molly, we’ll be led to believe there’s enough support in Columbus; it just needs to show up more consistently.

So for now we will sit and wait. We’ll watch the team pull off the occasional upset and the occasional near sellout. They’ll sit in 5th-7th place throughout the rest of the season. Whether or not they make the playoffs could wind up being the deciding factor for whether or not the Hunts clean house; starting with Robert Warzycha and Mark McCullers.

Know Your MLS Teams: Columbus Crew

 Posted by on June 22, 2013 at 10:16 pm  Blogs/Media, Columbus Crew, MLS
Jun 222013
columbus crew studio79 flickr 300x175 Know Your MLS Teams: Columbus Crew

Picture Courtesy of The Columbus Steam

Club Founded:  1995

Where they Finished Last Season: 15-7-12, 6th Place (Did Not Make the Playoffs)

Pedigree: 2008 MLS Cup Champion, 2002 U.S. Open Cup Champion, 3 time winner of the Supporters Shield (2009,2008,2004.)

Rivals: D.C. United, Chicago Fire.

Supporters Groups: The Nordecke- named for the North End of the Stadium

Coach: Robert Warzycha

Top Returning Players: DEF Chad Marshall, MF Eddie Gaven, FWD Jairo Arrieta, FWD Federico Higuain.

Key Additions: DEF Glauber (FC Rapid Bucaresti;) FWD Dominic Oduro (Chicago Fire.)

Key Departures: DEF Julius James (Unattached;) MF Chris Birchall (Port Vale.), MF Dilly Duka (Chicago Fire.)

Young Players to Look Out For: FWD Ben Speas,


While the Columbus Crew are not as cosmopolitan as New York or Los Angeles, they are the backbone of Major League Soccer. The first MLS team to have a soccer-specific stadium, the Crew have been one of the leagues success stories. A former MLS Cup Champion, 3-time winner of the Supporters Shield, and the 2002 U.S. Open Cup Champion, the Crew have proven throughout their history to be one of the top teams in the league.

In a league where teams will often spend their offseason completely revamping their teams, the Columbus Crew spent their offseason making relatively few changes. For a team with one of the youngest rosters in the league, Columbus is banking that their team will improve off of last years performance, barely losing out on the final playoff in the Eastern Conference. They are currently tied with the New England Revolution and Sporting Kansas City for the sixth and final playoff spot in the East (Sporting K.C. leads on Goal Differential.) The one loss that may hurt the team is Dilly Duka. Duka is not much of an attacking midfielder in the sense that he scores goals, but he is an excellent distributor and can provide support when other players go on the attack.

A team with a solid veteran spine of Chad Marshall, Eddie Gaven (although he recent tore his ACL,) and Costa Rican international Jairo Arrieta, Columbus has spent the past two offseasons accruing young talent to put around its veteran players. A player of the caliber like FWD Ben Speas, who was drafted in this years Super Draft will help. I have been watching this kid during his career while playing for Notre Dame, he is as polished as a Forward coming out of college as I have seen in a long time. They also feature young players like Defenders Eric Gehrig, Drew Beckie, and Josh Williams (though he is a bit older at 25) all of whom have helped the team limit the opposition’s goals to 18, which is one of the lowest in the league.

Although Coach Robert Warzycha has given some of the younger players playing time, it has only been because he had to. Injuries have started to pile up for this club, including losing DEF Glauber and MF Eddie Gaven for the season. “[Warzycha] is incredibly rigid with his tactics and personnel decisions, which is one of the reasons so many of us are calling for his job. He’s quite unwilling to play young guys right away and that tendency chased away Dilly Duka; a player I thought was perfect for the Crew last season,” says Global Football Today writer and Columbus Crew supporter Adam Uthe. This is a club that has invested too much of their time and resources into developing a young group of players who can play with any team in MLS. If they are showing the right progress (and they are) and the coach is still not playing them, then Management needs to make a decision about their coach.

When you see a player like Danny O’Rourke you see someone who would be an amazing substitute at Midfield for when the team is closing out a game. Yet, he has played over 880 minutes this season and looks to have lost a step. I am also not a big Tony Tchani fan. He is someone that started out with such promise with the New York Red Bulls, but never seemed to get it together. While the club started out strong they have lost 5 of their past 6 games, including a game against the Philadelphia Union where they were outplayed during the entire game. They seemed to bounce back against the Montreal Impact, but Warzycha needs to start using his younger players in more tactically important situations for this team to succeed.

At the center of the team’s attack is Argentina’s Federico Higuain. The brother of Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain, Federico is a menacing forward who seems like he never gives up on a play and has a real nose for the goal. In 14 league matches last year, Federico scored six goals. Although he only has four goals this season, he has proven to be a stabilizing force for a team that is still growing.

It will be interesting to see how he meshes with FWD Dominic Oduro. Oduro, the Ghanian international who has been perennially tabbed as a diamond in the rough in MLS seems to have finally broken out this season. Oduro has world class level speed, but has always lacked a first touch from the long ball. He seems to have found it this season, scoring 7 goals out of 14 shots on goal. In the match against the Montreal Impact, he was able to just snatch the ball away from the Montreal defense and score, a skill that he really had not shown until this year.  In theory, with Higuain and Oduro up front, and a young player like Justin Merram who is able to facilitate ball movement from the midfield, Columbus could prove to be an offensive juggernaut if the chemistry can work.

The other major question that Columbus must figure out is if Andy Gruenebaum is the answer at Goalkeeper. With a team that can possibly make some waves this year, it will be critical that they have their Goalkeeping situation solved. One of Columbus’ major problems last year was Gruenebaum’s poor decision-making in clearances and positioning along the goal. He has looked better this year, particularly in the game against D.C. United. His judgment on 50-50 balls was much better than the last time I had seen him and his command of the box was much stronger. The stats seem to backup this argument. He is currently ranked second in the league in saves with 51 and he has a Goals Against Average of 1.07 which is about eighth lowest among starting goalkeepers. He will have to continue to make progress as Columbus does not have many experienced options in the back. Backup Matt Lampson has only ever played in one MLS match.

Originally I had picked this team as one of the dark horses to win the Supporters Shield. I thought they had the right combination of veteran leadership with Marshall, Gaven, and Higuain, and youngsters like Speas and Arrieta. However, it may be a season too early for the Crew. I still believe that this is one of the most dangerous teams in all of MLS because if they can find the right lineup, they will be difficult for any team to beat. If you watch the Montreal match, you see a team that is figuring out how to beat the better teams, and how they can use their strengths to their advantage. It just may take a full  and a new coach, to figure this out.

Beer of Choice:

Great Lakes Brewery, Elliot Ness

In my experience watching the Columbus Crew, they are a team that will hold up through the entire game without giving the opposition an inch. Very rarely are they ever out of the match and they play just as hard in the 90th minute as they do in the first. Great Lakes Brewery’s Elliott Ness is a beer that has a fantastic first taste and continually gets better as the bottle winds down. Based in Cleveland, Ohio, is a Lager that gets its origin from Ohio’s German immigrants that made up the blue collar working class neighborhoods throughout Ohio. Since the Crew’s origins come from Columbus’ German heritage, this is a match made in heaven.





Bring Back The Legend

 Posted by on June 12, 2013 at 10:06 pm  Blogs/Media, Columbus Crew, MLS, United States
Jun 122013





Those tweets should make those of us who follow the Crew closely (and have for a long time) giddy as a schoolboy.

Guillermo wants to come back!

Not that this is news to some of us. Schelotto has been saying this ever since he left Columbus and returned to Argentina to take the heading coaching job at Lanus. And speaking of Lanus, they finished third in the first of the split season that is Argentina’s first division.

Now before you get excited, it should be pointed out that they were the only club in the Top 10 who failed to score 20 goals. They also led the league with just nine goals conceded. So much like the current Crew, a GBS-coached team struggled to score but also played stout defense.

Why am I mentioning all of this?

Because right now the entire Columbus Crew organization is stuck in limbo; both literally and figuratively. As I write this, their 4th Round US Open Cup with Chicago has been postponed until Thursday June 13 at 1pm EST. Their last competitive match was a week ago and they got thrashed 3-0 by a mediocre Philadelphia Union side. The front office has said no reinforcements are coming during the international transfer window that opens on July 1. Robert Warzycha continues to make tactical blunder after tactical blunder and seems to have lost the confidence of his entire roster.

Then there’s the people who actually own and operate the Columbus Crew organization: Hunt Sports Group.

They’re latest big announcement was for a new music festival that will be hosted by Crew Stadium and FC Dallas Stadium, the home of the other Hunt-owned team. HSG continues to show complete disinterest in the Crew and at one point said they were actively looking to get out of Columbus if they can find a local owner. They later backtracked from that statement, but their lack of organization-altering changes speaks more than any actual words that come out of their mouths.

Then we hear the second hand comments that the greatest player in the history of this club wants to return to the United States of America.

Imagine if the front office were to pull the trigger on Robert Warzycha and bring in Guillermo Barros Schelotto. The man who elevated the Columbus Crew to elite level as a player the way Brian McBride, Frankie Hejduk, and Chad Marshall never could. He made Alejandro Moreno is formidable striker for crying out loud!

Suddenly there’s new, young blood at the helm of a roster that Mark McCullers (and myself) believe can contend for the Eastern Conference title. Federico Higuain finds new inspiration playing under his countryman. Some of the magic of 2008 rubs off on the team and they sneak into the playoffs where anything can happen. Sounds like a match made in heaven for both sides.

But as long as the Hunts are in charge, they’re going to continue trotting out Robert Warzycha because he’s safe. He’s steady. He’s cheap. He won’t question the front office and their considerable lack of resources, both on and off the field. Schelotto might speak out about a lack of money to pay for good players. He might say mean things about the Hunts and about Warzycha. He’ll want to put his stamp on things and that means change.

And the Hunts don’t like change. Even if it’s change that can return Columbus to its place atop Major League Soccer.



Down, But Not Out

 Posted by on June 4, 2013 at 10:13 pm  Blogs/Media, Columbus Crew, MLS, United States
Jun 042013

Look, I get it: We all love Eddie Gaven.

He’s a hard working motherbear who never complains and never says the wrong thing. He’s the guy you want next to you in a foxhole. He fits the mold of the cliche perfect teammate.

But his season-ending ACL tear is not the end of the world.

Quick Tangent: It bothers me A LOT when people speak with a sad/grieving tone about athletes who tear their ACL. They aren’t dying. They aren’t dead. They WILL walk again. Too many people in the world are truly worthy of our sympathy and not one of them plays pro sports. 

Yes, Eddie scored nine goals last season and set up twice as many. You could even make the case that Columbus doesn’t advance in the US Open Cup against Dayton without him. But he is not a goalscorer or even a true “trequartista” playmaker like Guillermo. He wasn’t going to reach 10 goals or 10 assists this season and he probably would’ve been lucky to notch half of those numbers. His job was to advance the ball up the wing and open up space in the middle for Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuain to run wild.

His was a very replaceable role.

In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that his injury can HELP the Crew long term. With Gaven out, suddenly both wide midfield positions are open for auditions.

(Actually this assumes Robert Warzycha won’t continue trotting out a 4-4-1-1 with Oduro as a wide midfielder…which is probably what we’ll wind up seeing for the rest of the season.)

Justin Meram, Ben Speas, Ethan Finlay, and even Bernardo Anor are all talented young players who need regular first team minutes to achieve their potential. Think about how much more dangerous Arrieta and Oduro can be when teams have to face the prospect of containing both Meram and Speas at the same time. Both are natural wide midfielders with pace and solid dribbling skills. Finlay is even faster than those two and Anor’s left foot is sorely needed in the attack so that Tyson Wahl can stay home and defend.

Just imagine what this team could (potentially) trot out…

Barson – Williams – Glauber – Wahl


Meram (Finlay) – Speas (Anor)


Arrieta – Oduro

Suddenly “the goals will come” is no longer a hollow bumper stick for the future; it’s very much real. This is a lineup that can spend the rest of this season gelling and preparing for an actual Eastern Conference run in 2014, but without fielding a dull team incapable of entertaining the masses of Columbus even in defeat.

Of course, this would require tactical flexibility from Warzycha, or perhaps even his outright dismissal. The point is that Eddie Gaven’s injury has opened up more opportunities than setbacks. Let’s hope the organization can take advantage.

May 202013

Let’s lay a few ground rules before we get this underway…

-The real U-23 squads in the US Open Cup (Portland, Seattle, Orlando, New York) are NOT professionals who also happen to be on the senior roster of their respective teams. I’m breaking that rule for Columbus.

-Unfortunately, there aren’t enough players 23 or younger on the Crew to fill an 18 man gameday roster.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s take a look at what the Crew have to work with. This exercise was inspired by the lack of creativity and ingenuity shown by Robert Warzycha, even when faced with a growing injury list.

Goalkeepers (2): Matt Lampson (23), Daniel Withrow (22)

Defenders (4): Chad Barson (22), Drew Beckie (22) , Kyle Hyland (22), Kevan George (23)

Midfielders (4): Wil Trapp (20), Shawn Sloan (22), Ben Speas (22), Ethan Finlay (22)

Forwards (3): Aaron Horton (21), Aaron Schoenfeld (23), Ryan Finley (22)

I know, I know…it’s going to be tough just to fill out a lineup. But what kind of fake coach would I be if I couldn’t mold this short handed bunch into a US Open Cup contender.

So what’s my starting formation? Have a look…


Barson – Beckie – George – Hyland


Speas               –               Finlay


Schoenfeld  -  Finley

Matt Lampson is the easiest selection here and thankfully he has a decent backup in Marshall product Daniel Withrow. Homegrown signing Chad Barson is capable of playing on the right or in the middle, but Drew Beckie and Kevan George are more physically imposing and thus better suited for the center back pairing. Kyle Hyland already has a couple assists from the left side of the backline; the senior team’s most short handed position. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to trot him out there if Agustin Viana is out long term and Tyson Wahl doesn’t improve.

We know all about each wide midfielder, but Wil Trapp and Shawn Sloan haven’t been seen as much. Trapp is an excellent tactical fit as a holding midfielder. He’s calm, cool, and collected on the ball and is a good passer out of the back. Unfortunately, he may get run over with his diminutive stature. He’s only 20 though, so maybe he can squeeze in another inch or two in height. Shawn Sloan has played all over the midfield throughout his high school/college career, but he managed to scored 58 goals and serve 40 assists in high school. He also had seven assists as a junior in college and ten in his senior year so he’s more than capable of distributing.

And thankfully, he has two very stellar forwards to whom he can distribute. Ryan Finley is a clinical finisher with his head and both feet while Aaron Schoenfeld has already shown us (in limited first team action) that he can hang with MLS defenders.

So how will this side fair in the US Open Cup?

Here’s what the bracket looks like:

So the U-23 Crew will get the winner of Dayton Dutch Lions and Dearborn Stars SC. Even though Dearborn pulled off a shocker over the USL’s Michigan Bucks, I still like Dayton Dutch Lions to win and set up the revenge match. Several guys on this squad have been on the fringe with the first team and most of the others have impressed in the Reserve League.

Crew U-23 2-1 Dayton Dutch Lions

Crew U-23 goals: Finley & Speas

On to the next one! Assuming this is the real bracket (I don’t know if the pairings are 100% accurate) the Crew U-23 team gets a date with the winner of the LA Galaxy and Carolina Dynamo/Carolina Railhawks. Even if the Galaxy take this one off, I still like them to get past the winner of the Carolina duel.

Crew U-23 1-2 LA Galaxy

Crew U-23 goal: Finley

Unfortunately this would be the worst possible draw for the Crew if it held up; especially if the U-23 squad has to go on the road to California. Even the scrubs at LA Galaxy have enough to beat this Crew U-23 side, but it would be a very close match. With a better draw this team would be more than capable of advancing to the quarterfinals over a “senior” MLS side (depending on who takes it seriously).

So even though the lads in black and yellow couldn’t break through to the quarterfinals, they’ve still shown us that Robert Warzycha has plenty of options in his back pocket that he will no doubt waste. Ryan Finley is the best (aka most MLS ready) player on this squad with Ben Speas right behind him. I really want to see what Chad Barson and Drew Beckie can do in defense. Beckie’s college highlights were solid and he showed Josh Williams-type athleticism. When Wil Trapp finally gets back from his national team duties, he’ll be well seasoned and hungry to prove himself. He’s already told his travel days off between USMNT U-20 and Crew duties to eff-off so we know he’s a hard worker.

Thoughts? Agree or disagree?



What Could Have Been…

 Posted by on May 5, 2013 at 7:53 pm  Blogs/Media, Columbus Crew, MLS, United States
May 052013

So Saturday’s 1-0 loss to New York REALLY sucked, no?

The team finally looked poised to make a run over the next couple weeks as they knocked the ball around and kept Thierry Henry relatively quiet for most of the game. Hell, Federico Higuain even got a nice penalty kick to put a pretty bow on the three points that were surely headed Columbus’s way.

Then Higuain telegraphed his shot and Louis Robles kept the score level at 0-0.

After that New York sprang to life and eventually Tim Cahill headed home a rebound that flew just out of reach for Andy Gruenebaum.


It was an infuriating and agonizing result; a complete waste of potential. The players and coaches said as much after the game. The salt in the wound was, of course, Robert Warzycha waiting until beyond the 80th minute to make any sort of substitution or tactical change. As usual, I found myself second guessing the Polish Rifle’s lineup and tactical instructions; we all do it.

But then I started to dig a little deeper. I thought about all the good players who have left the Crew over the years. I thought about what Saturday’s game (and the rest of the season for that matter) would be like if things had broken differently for the Crew ever since their MLS Cup winning season in 2013. For the purposes of this discussion, I focused only on players the Crew have lost in Expansion drafts of years past. For example…

2008-Brad Evans (Seattle)

2009-Alejandro Moreno (Philadelphia)

2010-Eric Brunner/Adam Moffat (Portland)

2011-Josh Gardner (Montreal)

So let’s take care of the obvious first. Alejandro Moreno was on the last legs of his career when he departed for Philly in 2009 and Josh Gardner, while serviceable, was hardly a world beater at left back when he departed.

The other three guys, however, are a different story. Sure, Warzycha may never have utilized any of them or perhaps even traded them away eventually (come back Brian Carroll!) but let’s assume Evans, Brunner, and Moffat did progress and play regularly for Columbus. What would the line up look like today…


Williams – Marshall – Brunner – Wahl


Gaven                  -                     Evans


Arrieta      -         Oduro



Williams – Marshall – Brunner – Wahl

Gaven – Moffat – Evans – Speas



Wow. Just wow. Look at either of those lineups and tell me this team isn’t currently in first place in the East coming off an MLS Cup Final appearance. Suddenly there’s no question surrounding who will take over Chad Marshall in 2-3 years. There’s no debate about who is playing the center of the midfield. There’s tons of scoring options across said midfield.

If you really want to torture yourself like I did, just think about if Guillermo and Gino were the 1-2 coaching punch leading this group. What if a local ownership group suddenly came together out nowhere and came up with $200 million for a new stadium downtown; a la Kansas City’s recent gift from the heavens. Said stadium could’ve been put in the Arena District next to Nationwide and suddenly 19,000 are showing up for every game.

On and on it goes…

But we who are faithful to the MASSIVE club are not so fortunate. We must press on with what little we have and continue to hope for the best.

“Be Massive!!!”

May 022013

The Crew will host New York in a nationally televised game this Saturday May 4. This day has also become an international holiday to help nerds like me celebrate all things Star Wars.

Allow me to present a special breakdown of the 2013 Columbus Crew, inspired by one of the greatest movies of all time…

Jairo Arrieta = Luke Skywalker

Young and fairly handsome, Jairo Arrieta navigates the Death Star trenches that are an opponent’s defense. He’ll be the one who ultimately takes the game winning shot, even if his target to score is only two meters wide. The fate of the 2013 Crew’s season ultimately rests in his hands (and feet).

Danny O’Rourke = Han Solo

O’Rourke may not seem like the second best good guy in black and yellow, but don’t tell him that. Just like Han, the holding midfielder is a reckless pirate with the unenviable task of retrieving the Crew’s most precious cargo: the ball. He may look a bit past his prime, but O’Rourke is still capable of taking the Millenium Falcon through the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. Unlike Han, however, O’Rourke gets the award for Crew player Least Likely To Shoot First.

Federico Higuain = R2-D2

He may not be the biggest player out on the field of battle, but the Argentine playmaker always makes the right move just in the nick of time to give his teammates a chance to succeed. Also, his English is still limited to the point that he might as well be speaking in bells and whistles.

Glauber = Chewbacca

He’s big. He’s hairy. He’ll rip your arms out of their sockets if you beat him at cards.

Let the Glauber win!

Eddie Gaven = Wedge Antilles

Much like that one guy who survived the Death Star assault beside Luke Skywalker and went on become the “Luke Skywalker” of Return Of The Jedi, Eddie Gaven is still widely under-appreciated outside of Columbus. He clocks in, puts in his work, clocks out, and goes home without complaint having performed his duties admirably.

Dominic Oduro = Lando Calrissian

No, I’m not trying to be racist!

Lando is pretty much the only Star Wars character with true swagger (other than Bib Fortuna) and Oduro is easily the flashiest player on this Columbus team. Just as Lando spent a very brief amount of time working for the enemy, Oduro joins Columbus after spending the last two seasons with Ch*cago F*re. Best be careful or the self proclaimed “Freaky Fast” will try to steal your Princess Leia.

Chad Marshall = Obi Wan Kenobi

Just as the grizzled Kenobi was the ideal man to represent the Jedi Order, Chad Marshall is Columbus Crew manifested in human form. And just as Obi-Wan was Princess Leia’s only hope, Marshall is the only hope for Columbus’s backline this season.

Robert Warzycha = C-3PO

Annoying and way more trouble than he’s worth, the Polish Rifle is always trying to tell us the odds and how he knows better than us. He’s also constantly getting in the way and the 2013 Crew will half to win in spite of him to make the playoffs.