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Nov 072013

And there you have it folks: Gregg Berhalter has been chosen to lead Columbus to the promised land!

Before we go any further, let’s get something out of the way. Some people are excited and some are not excited. Some people think this is a great hire while others think it is not. Ultimately, hindsight will prove some people right and some people wrong. In a situation like this, fans can only react to what they know. None of us know that three years from now the Crew front office is stacked with trophies and none of us know that three years from now Berhalter is out of the job after a disastrous tenure.

I completely understand some Crew fans wanting everyone to be upbeat and positive, but I can also understand some fans being distraught that other candidates, like Guillermo Barros Schelotto, were not selected. Schelotto was more than qualified for the job given his coaching record at Lanus in Argentina. I’m more upset a guy like Tab Ramos wasn’t chosen. Whatever. If some fans want to be upset, then let them. It doesn’t somehow make them less “loyal” fans just because they aren’t thrilled with the hire. Again, time will tell.

That being said, I’m one of those people who isn’t wild about the hire. I’ve softened my stance a bit now that I’ve had a day or two to reflect and let me emotions calm down, but I still have my reservations. There’s a lot to consider, so I’m going to make a “pros and cons” list, just like I did when Brian Bliss was named interim head coach and was being considered for the full time job. So let’s get to it…

Con: His record at Hammarby (Swedish second division)

Gregg Berhalter went 18-11-16 in 18 months with Swedish second division side Hammarby, who are based in the capital city of Stockholm. But more concerning was the fact that he was let go for a lack for what the team’s owner considered a lack of offense. According to data guru Larry Johnson over at Massive Report, Hammarby’s Goals For (GF) per game was 0.87 under Berhalter and is 1.41 since he left the team in June. Their Goals Against (GA) was 0.96 per game under Berhalter and 1.18 since he left.

For those of us who didn’t enjoy the “Goals Will Come” era, those numbers are hardly reassuring.

Pro: He has experience outside MLS

I was really hoping the team would look outside recycled MLS regulars like Frank Yallop and Jesse Marsch and pick someone with coaching experience outside MLS. Obviously Guillermo met that, but so did Tab Ramos as he has been coaching the US U-20 team over the last couple years.

Not only does Berhalter have coaching experience outside of MLS, but he also spent the majority of his playing career overseas as well. He has been exposed to a number of different teams and philosophies. Since he left Hammarby, he has been touring Europe learning even more about different teams’ systems and philosophies. He was unable to attend the teleconference for the announcement of his hiring because he was in Barcelona getting a tour of their facilities. More on this later.

Con: He has never been a head coach in MLS

This was always going to be a concern for anyone who wanted to see Guillermo or any other outside hires. Berhalter needs to get up to speed on the roster rules quickly and he needs to make sure his new Director of Soccer Operations is well versed in said rules as well. He’s got very little time to do so, so his  first hire will be crucial.

Pro: Data-driven

A lot is being made of Berhalter’s desire to use data and analytics to help shape the team going forward. If he’s committed to it, he’ll be the first to do so in MLS. It is encouraging to see someone who recognizes future trends and wants to study them in depth. I’m not a huge believer in analyics and crunching numbers when it comes to the sport of soccer, but it is still refreshing to see someone take such an unconventional approach to managing a team.

Con: He likes the current crop of players

Berhalter has apparently been watching over a dozen Crew games from this season since he formally interviewed in September and he claims there is a lot of promise on the current roster. I tend to disagree. Outside of guys like Federico Higuain, Wil Trapp, and Bernardo Anor I don’t see a ton of potential in this team. Jairo Arrieta took a huge step back and Dominic Oduro was playing for a new deal this season and could easily take next season off if the team decides to pay him. The young, recent draft picks like Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay, Ryan Finley, and Aaron Schoenfeld simply aren’t that talented. Homegrown guys like Ben Speas and Chad Barson show some promise going forward, but I was really hoping the new coach would say more about evaluating the roster rather than committing to the current group. I think now is the time to blow up the roster and start making serious changes, especially with two new teams joining the league in 2015.

Pro: He has full control

I get the feeling that, regardless of who was hired, Mark McCullers was always destined to quit the soccer side of things altogether after this season, but it’s still good that Berhalter will have full control of soccer operations. I do like that he has been wandering through Europe getting new ideas about not just coaching the first team, but shaping the entire organization down to the Academy and youth levels. This needed to happen regardless of who was chosen.

The Verdict

In the end, I’ve talked myself off the ledge a bit with regards to Gregg Berhalter being in charge of the Columbus Crew going forward. His record (and more importantly his GF/GA numbers) still terrifies me. To have a decent record overall, take the team from 12th to 4th, and STILL get fired mid-season because you weren’t scoring enough is a MASSIVE red flag. Again, we can only off of what we know and based on what we know about his time in Sweden I fear we are headed towards 2-3 more years of the “Goals Will Come” era.

That being said, I’m trying to be optimistic and get excited and I do find it extremely encouraging that he has spent his time off studying other teams around Europe. I’m also intrigued by his stated desire to approach the game from an analytical perspective. We are constantly being bombarded with quotes about how he has a plan and knows exactly what he wants to do going forward. But we should expect that of anyone who comes in to be Head Coach and Sporting Director.

(Side note: I can’t help but feel like Anthony Precourt has become a bit too enamored with Sporting Kansas City. There seem to be a lot of similarities between Berhalter and Peter Vermes with regards to their titles, responsibilities, style as players and general desired style of play as coaches.)

And so we venture forth into a new era in Columbus and hopefully good times and new trophies await us. I’ll continue to be wary of Berhalter’s previous coaching record, but I also look forward to seeing what he can do with a fresh start.

Here’s to a MASSIVE off-season!

Oct 132013

Although the Columbus Crew are still mathematically capable of making the playoffs, I’m going to assume they aren’t getting in for the sake of this discussion. Even if they do manage to sneak, I don’t see making the playoffs as enough of an accomplishment to award the head coaching job to Brian Bliss.

I’m still not entirely sold on Bliss and so I’m going to do the rational thing and create a “pros” and “cons” list to determine if he should in fact take over after the 2013 season concludes.

Pro: He Pushes The Right Buttons

There can be no denying how much more motivated this team has looked ever since Bliss took over for Robert Warzycha. By all accounts the players are more loose in training and that in turn has produced a much more confident group come game day. The question is: how much of this is attributed to Bliss and how much is attributed to the departure of Warzycha? Would any other coach have been able to produce the same results? It’s “chicken vs. egg” question, but it’s also worth considering when discussing the possibility of Bliss taking over permanently.

Con: Conservative Tactics

Brian Bliss is getting results on the field, but he has done so with very little tactical imagination. He has trotted out a very traditional 4-4-1-1 with Federico Higuain tucked in behind lone striker Jairo Arrieta and natural forward Dominic Oduro out wide on the right. Robert Warzycha trotted out this same lineup on several occasions and I was really hoping we’d see something new from Bliss. Oduro isn’t a midfielder and as a result Chad Barson/Josh Williams end up on an island when it comes to defending the flanks. Ultimately I’d like to see someone with less conservative tactics take over this offseason.

Pro: He Helped Build The Current Roster

Since Brian Bliss was a technical director before taking over, we know what he is capable of in terms of scouting and discovering talent. You can’t say that about half of the teams in MLS whose coaches spend more time deferring such duties to a technical director or GM. Bliss is the man who found and helped sign Federico Higuain. He also gave us the aforementioned Arrieta and Oduro as well as 20 year old Wil Trapp, who came up through the academy.

Con: He Helped Build The Current Roster

For every Higuain on Bliss’s resume there’s a Glauber and a Matias Sanchez. We spent much of this season complaining about how, in the end, most of the players on this roster simply aren’t good enough. Well, Bliss is responsible for that as well. He brought in guys like Tony Tchani, Tyson Wahl, Aaron Schoenfeld, etc. One has to wonder if he is capable of finding 20-25 good players and not just half a dozen.

Pro: He’s Cheap

Bliss was once an interim head coach for Kansas City, but other than that he has spent much of his post-playing career as a technical director. He won’t command very much in terms of salary, even if the Crew do manage to sneak into the playoffs. I’d like to see the organization look outside of former MLS coaches and players, but that will likely cost more in salary than whatever Bliss negotiates.

Con: His Attire Is Cheap

I love the guy, but he looks like he bought his game day attire off the sales rack at Kohls. I’m sure he wasn’t making a ton as technical director, but surely it was enough to afford some nice suits.


At the end of the day, I think there is someone else out there who can take this team to new heights under the new ownership group. This may be the biggest offseason in the team’s history. There is an opportunity to conduct a thorough search for a new head coach and even a new GM/President. If Anthony Precourt and Co. get this offseason right, there’s no reason this team can’t compete for the Supporters Shield and a CONCACAF Champions League spot right away next season. I would love to see an international candidate take over. Bliss can remain on staff as a technical director and explain the roster construction rules to whoever takes over for him. Guillermo Barros Schelotto has already been asked about it and shrugged off speculation saying he’s happy in Argentina and would like to fulfill his current deal which is set to expire in June of 2014.

Bliss has done a great job in the interim role, but at the end of the day I don’t think he’s tactically proficient enough to be in charge of the team going forward. To be perfectly honest, the only reason I’d want to keep him around as technical director is if an MLS outsider comes in to take over. He’s had too many misses when building this roster over the last five years. I want to see exciting, unconventional hires across the board this offseason. I’d like to see this roster blown up now, right after the team has been sold to new ownership.

This is truly the dawning of a new era in Columbus and that means it’s time to take bold risks. It’s time to go off the beaten path. It’s time for a new direction.

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 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.

Apr 292013

YESSS!!! It feels SO good to write punderful headlines again!

Here, let me get a few more out of my system…

Columbus Offense Sets DC United Defense Ablaze!

Crew Offense Sparked By Scoreboard Fire!

At Long Last Columbus Crew’s Offense Is Heating Up! (For your NBA Jam fans)

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the game itself…

Since Columbus scored three times on Saturday night, I have just three observations to discuss.

1. Robert Warzycha’s lineup adjustments were not that impressive.

Yes, it was good to see Jairo Arrieta back on the field at the start of the game. But Warzycha trotted out the same 4-4-1-1 formation and went back to deploying Dominic Oduro out wide on the right. Ben Speas was relegated to the bench, along with Tyson Wahl who was replaced by Agustin Viana with Tony Tchani sliding into Viana’s usual holding midfield spot next to Danny O’Rourke.

If Oduro and Eddie Gaven are going to play out wide and if Warzycha is going to insist on playing two defensive midfielders at a time, then there needs to be a new formation. It should probably look something like this…


Williams – Marshall – Glauber – Wahl/Viana

O’Rourke – Viana/Tchani


Oduro – Arrieta – Gaven

It’s no use trying to masquerade Oduro and Gaven as midfielders since they are never going to track back and defend properly. If you insist on deploying two holding midfielders, then they can focus entirely on defending, especially out wide. Higuain gets the freedom to  roam into space and set up not one, not two, but three true attackers in front of him.

Everybody wins.

2. Josh Williams deserves a start at center back

Once again, the Crew were fortunate to be the beneficiaries of a blown offside call against DC that saved a goal.

Glauber still looks a half step too slow and does a poor job recovering if he gets beat down the middle; which has proven to be the best way to beat Columbus so far this season. Josh Williams solves that problem since he is faster and more athletic than the lumbering Brazilian.

This also opens up a spot at left back. There are several candidates who can fill the position. Agustin Viana looked capable before leaving the game in the first half. When he’s fully recovered, Bernardo Anor provides a ton of speed out wide to link up with Eddie Gaven. The third option didn’t reveal itself until Sunday’s reserve scrimmage with West Virginia. Rookie Kyle Hyland from IUPUI (what up Jaguars!) notched an assist and looked very comfortable at the position.

Warzycha will never go through with it, but it’s good to know the options are there.

3. Jairo Arrieta is the most important player on this team

Andy Gruenebaum will have to continue to be the Hebrew Hammer behind a porous backline, but Arrieta showed just how valuable he is on Saturday night. During his absence, the Crew attack found itself fizzling out quite a bit because teams would gang up on Federico Higuain, who was collecting the ball 40 yards from goal with only one option in front of him.

Arrieta, however, showed that he is more than capable of creating something of out nothing. He has a fantastic first touch and great ball control for a guy who, at a mere 5’10, constantly finds himself posting up larger defenders. The Crew can’t rely on goals from Higuain all season and Oduro is going to go six or seven games without scoring very soon.

The Costa Rica international will have to be the one who carries this team to the playoffs on his back.


Mar 142013

So now that I’m done preaching gloom and doom, let’s focus on something more positive!

Earlier this week I lamented the all around poor performances across the Columbus starting lineup against Vancouver. This week San Jose comes to town before the Crew travel to Washington DC next week for a nationally televised match with United.

I was very critical of Brazilian newcomer Glauber for being a half step too slow against the Whitecaps attack last week and I wonder if a brief benching wouldn’t be a bad idea. It’s not so much that I don’t believe in him, but rather I want to see what second round draft pick Drew Beckie can do.

It’s hard enough judging a player based on some highlight video that is obviously meant to flatter the individual in question. But something struck me about Beckie when I saw his highlight video ahead of the draft. The defender out of Denver has all the physical to compete in MLS. He’s as fast as he is strong; two qualities the Crew defense as a whole was lacking last week. I think he could play anywhere across the backline, but Glauber’s spot in the middle of the defense next to Chad Marshall would be a good place to start. I suppose you could slide Williams into the center of the defense and let Beckie play wide right as well but he doesn’t have much to offer going forward with the attack.

We also found out this week that Jairo Arrieta will miss next week’s trip to DC after being called up to join his native Costa Rica for their upcoming World Cup qualifier against the US in Colorado. If Robert Warzycha is going to insist on deploying Dominic Oduro out wide on the right, then next Sunday would suggest an opportunity for first round draft pick Ryan Finley to get the start and go for at least 60 minutes. Finley has impressed me in two very limited substitution appearances. He’s got a good first touch for such a big, strong forward and he makes smart runs and keeps most of his shots on frame. He should have earned a late penalty kick against Vancouver after making a brilliant run that Federico Higuain picked out. Hopefully he’ll get another appearance this weekend and then the start next weekend.

Until then, we need a lineup for Saturday’s home opener with San Jose. But before I get to that, allow me a moment to suggest a new song for the Nordecke this season to the tune of The Beastie Boys’ hit “Girls”…

Crew! All I really want is Crew!

And in the morning it’s Crew!

‘Cause in the evening it’s Crew!

I like the way that they walk

And it’s chill to hear them talk

And they can always make us smile

From White Castle to the Nile!

Okay…here’s my preferred lineup for the week!


Williams – Marshall – Beckie – Wahl

Sanchez – Tchani

Oduro – Higuain – Speas


I’m through with Danny O’Rourke trying to play both ways and I’m starting to form the same opinion of Agustin Viana. Ben Speas impressed me enough last week to earn a start over Eddie Gaven as a precaution.

Prediction: Crew 2-1 San Jose

Have a MASSIVE Saint Patrick’s Day!!!

Mar 112013

Maybe it was turf and maybe it wasn’t.

Saturday’s loss to Vancouver stung me quite a bit. It wasn’t just about losing because of Daigo Kobayashi’s long range bomb that Andy Gruenebaum misjudged. Columbus looked seriously out of sorts against the Whitecaps. Outside of Federico Higuain, it seemed like every single player on the field had a poor first touch. They were a half step too slow to react. The defensive midfield duo of Agustin Viana and Danny O’Rourke couldn’t stay on their feet half the time. Vancouver simply looked like they were the better side.

But are they?

I struggled to answer that question throughout the game on Saturday night. Which is the real Columbus Crew: the team that beat Chivas USA 3-1 or the one that lost to Vancouver? I’m starting to think it’s the latter. I came to stark realization on Saturday that this team has no true “box-to-box” central midfielders. Viana, Matias Sanchez, and Tony Tchani are all more naturally deployed as holding midfielders while Danny O’Rourke is more of a defender than anything else. O’Rourke showed us just how little he has to offer in the final third when he blasted a good chance just outside the 18 midway through the first half. Sanchez and Tchani looked much better going forward when they came on in the second half.

Then there was the back line. As big and strong as they are, they all looked a half step too slow and that was up against Kenny Miller. Darren Mattocks and rookie substitute Eriq Zavaleta both exposed Glauber as hardly fleet of foot. Andy Gruenebaum probably didn’t have a chance to stop Kobayashi’s goal anyway, but you can’t help but wonder if he was a bit high off his line.

The forwards were the lone bright spot. Youngster Ben Speas, who started in place of the late scratch Eddie Gaven, looked impressive at times as he linked up well with Federico Higuain. It will be interesting to see what he can do on an actual grass surface. Jairo Arrieta struggled alone up top, but he also showed he can finish any chance with his early second half goal. Dominic Oduro showed flashes of brilliance and ineptitude throughout the match. Ryan Finley did well to draw a penalty that ultimately wasn’t called when he came on late as a sub. The rookie from Notre Dame might get a shot to play 60-90 minutes with the news that Arrieta will travel to Denver with his native Costa Rica for their World Cup qualifier against the United States in 10 days.

It’s still early and the season has a long way to go, but Saturday’s loss was still very discouraging. Columbus blew a golden opportunity for earn at least point, if not three, on the road. But they have some time to make up for it, starting with Saturday night’s home opener against a San Jose side that isn’t nearly as good as they were last season when they won the Supporters Shield. More to come on them later this week.

In the meantime, keep your heads up and stay MASSIVE Crew Faithful. Blame Canada!



Mar 072013

That’s right, Danny O’Rourke cannot start this weekend against Vancouver.

Look, I get it: He’s scrappy and he always works his butt off. But last Saturday I saw shades of the dark side of Danny O’Rourke we’ve come to know and fear. He makes questionable decisions and tries to gamble with his tackles when he gets beat. He’s a ticking red card just waiting to be flashed. Columbus can ill afford to have such a volatile player on the field against a very clever and dangerous Vancouver side that will punish defensive mistakes.

So who should start in the center of the middle with Augustin Viana? Ideally I would prefer Matias Sanchez, but I would be okay with giving Tony Tchani a chance as well. The defense is fine as it is. His thrilling box-to-box goal aside, I wasn’t impressed with Dominic Oduro out wide on the right. I still think he’d be better served as a strike partner for Jairo Arrieta and letting Higuain drop back into a “trequartista” type midfielder and distribute.

So with that in mind, here’s my preferred lineup for Saturday’s match against Vancouver…


Williams – Marshall – Glauber – Wahl


Gaven           –         Meram


Oduro – Arrieta

I still want to see how the diamond midfield would work. I also want to see Meram get a legitimate chance to become a regular starter. Vancouver’s defense will be hurting with the loss of Jay DeMerit and San Jose comes to town next week, so now is as good a time as any to tinker with things up top.

Prediction: Columbus 1-1 Vancouver


Columbus Crew 2013 Season Outlook

 Posted by on February 27, 2013 at 10:08 pm  Blogs/Media, Columbus Crew, MLS, United States
Feb 272013

Crewsmas Eve is fast approaching!

I’ve talked defense. I’ve talked midfield. I’ve talked forwards. Now it’s time to figure out how things will play out.

Robert Warzycha’s Projected Starting XI


Williams – Marshall – Glauber – Wahl

Sanchez – Viana

Oduro – Higuain – Gaven


This is the Starting XI that Warzycha trotted out against Montreal and so you would assume this is what he wants for Saturday night against Chivas. It makes a lot of sense and it’s a very safe bet. With two midfielders cleaning up in front of the back four, the Crew can play the kind of conservative game that Warzycha loves so much. The X Factor is Oduro out wide on the right. The sooner he can adjust to playing as a wide midfielder, the better.

My Starting XI


Williams – Marshall – Glauber – Wahl


Gaven – Meram


Oduro- Arrieta

This team’s strength is its plethora of options up top. As much as I hate to have Higuain drop back into a midfield role, I’d rather see Oduro deployed ahead of him as a true striker. With two true strikers, Higuain can play more of a “trequartista” role and I think that’s ultimately better than having him as, for all intents and purposes, a second forward. I think this is Meram’s year to shine. He’s got the dribbling skills and long distance shooting skills to be a good wide midfielder.

Team MVP

This is Higuain’s team. As he goes, so goes the Crew’s season. Last season Arrieta was more valuable because he was Higuain’s only option up top. With the addition of Oduro and Ryan Finley’s excellent preseason, Arrieta has less pressure to be the top, true goalscorer.

Breakout Star

You’ve heard me babble about Matias Sanchez…and I’m going to continue doing so. He’s the ideal central midfielder Columbus has always lacked and his big game experience will be invaluable. The 25 year old Argentine will draw a lot of raised eyebrows with his performance this season.

Youngster Of The Year

I like Wil Trapp a lot, but unfortunately he’s still a year or two away. Drew Beckie, however, is ready to go. I think we’ll see some better than expected performances from him off the bench at all three spots along the back line. His athleticism cannot be understated and he’ll learn to pass out of the back as the season goes on.


As with last season, August will prove to be the toughest month of the year. Columbus travels to New York, Seattle, and Toronto while hosting Houston and Real Salt Lake. The key will be getting off to a hot start and staying at the top of the Eastern Conference throughout the first couple months. Luckily, the first two games of the season (away to Chivas and home against Vancouver) offer Columbus a very easy six points. Seven of their eight matches in April and May will come against Eastern Conference opponents. If the team is going to do well, they’ll need to start much faster than last season.


This team WILL make the playoffs. I don’t know who they kick out of last year’s field, but this team has what it takes. As long as the defense holds up, the additions of Oduro and Finley will take the pressure off Arrieta to be the only goal-scoring option. Think about how much the Crew have struggled to score in the past. If Oduro and Finley can tally just 5-6 goals each, it will go a long way towards helping the team outscore its opponents on night’s when the defense is struggling.

Expect MASSIVE things from Columbus this season!


Feb 272013

This off-season I said Jairo Arrieta had been the bigger pickup over Federico Higuain. The former has been tearing it up with Costa Rica of late, but the latter is still going to have the bigger impact in 2013.

Higuain has been outspoken from the first day of training camp about his desire to not just make the playoffs, but compete for a title in 2013. He won’t sneak up on anyone in MLS in 2013, but he also has a number of new options to help him out up top along with Arrieta. Ryan Finley looks like a great finisher after being drafted ninth overall out of Notre Dame and the speedy Dominic Oduro arrives as part of the Dilly Duka trade with Chicago. Former trialist Aaron Schoenfeld also looked good in preseason and six feet, four inches he’s a solid aerial threat on set pieces.

Here’s the individual break down…

Federico Higuain

“Gonzalo’s Older Brother” broke onto the scene during the second half of last season and now has had a full off-season to develop chemistry his strike partner Jairo Arrieta as well as newcomers Ryan Finley and Dominic Oduro.

Jairo Arrieta

The complete forward has been impressing with his native Costa Rica of late and will look to solidify his 1-2 punch with Higuain. Expect him to be near the top of the league in offside infractions this season, but also expect double digit goals.

Ryan Finley

The rookie out of Notre Dame has shown a real knack for finishing chances throughout the preseason. I’ve got questions about his attitude given his troubled past in college, but there’s no doubt he can be a great target striker in MLS for years to come.

Dominic Oduro

Oduro will look to make an impression after coming over from Chicago in the Dilly Duka trade. As his Twitter handle suggests, he is “freaky fast” but has struggled to actually score goals ever since he netted 12 for the Fire in 2011. Rumor has it Chicago dealt him because he wasn’t happy about being asked to play out wide on the right. He continued to play that spot for Columbus throughout the preseason and he’ll probably have to play in that spot if he wants to be a regular starter. If he can match his 2012 total of six goals, he’ll have earned his keep.

Aaron Schoenfeld

He made the tall striker made the team as a trialist last season and looks like a reserve to start the season, but he’s still an aerial threat for Higuain on set pieces.


So that wraps up the positional breakdowns. Stay tuned for one last piece about my projected Starting XI and an outlook for the entire season.