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Oct 312013

If you’re looking for fond reminiscing about Eddie Gaven’s career in Columbus you’ve come to the wrong place. There are plenty more “memorials” out there that will paint the image of a humble man who left a lasting impression on the Columbus Crew; which is 100% accurate.

But I want to talk about something different. I want to talk about his legacy on the greater American soccer landscape.

Eddie Gaven signed with the old Metrostars in 2003 at the age of 16. He was the original MLS prodigy. He was the first (but certainly not the last) attempt to generate buzz for MLS during its darker days. Freddy Adu would go on to become the youngest player to sign with and play for an MLS team, but Eddie Gaven was the original.

Gaven would go on to make 69 appearances for the Metrostars from 2003-2005 and then he signed with Columbus in 2006. He ultimately made 209 appearances for the Black And Gold and was an integral part in helping them earn two Supporters Shields (2004, 2008) and one MLS Cup (2008). His game didn’t necessarily reflect the flashy hype that surrounded his signing with the Metrostars. He was primarily used as a wide midfielder in Columbus where he tirelessly chased the game from box to box on the flanks without complaint. He scored a handful of goals each season and tallied a few assists as well. By all measures, he has been an above average MLS player ever since he came to Columbus in 2006.

So you can imagine the shock that is still being felt when he suddenly came to the Crew at the age of 27 and said he wanted to focus his attention on the next phase of his life. Professional athletes who retire at such a “young” age are few and far between. That burning desire to play at an elite level is what keeps them going. Although he is young by your typical professional soccer standards, Gaven seems to have lost that burning desire.

And that’s okay.

As the original teen phenom, Gaven got his first taste of professional soccer right around the same time he was preparing to get his drivers license. He started so much sooner than most professional athletes, regardless of the sport. Over the last year or two I’ve had to remind myself of this as I watched him jog up and down the field with that borderline sad basset hound look on his face. Even though he was still a few years away from hitting that “plateau” of 30 years old, he looked beaten beyond his years.

Many people out there (myself included) have criticized Landon Donovan for lacking that same burning desire and simply going through the motions. If the US is ever going to turn into a World Cup contender and a major player in the global market for soccer, it needs players willing to sweat and toil and earn a spot in the starting XI for great teams as early in their lives as possible. They need to be robots who simply want to know when the next game is. It sounds harsh, but look around the professional soccer landscape and you’ll see plenty of great players who started making regular first team appearances before the age of 21. Those players hit the “prime” of their careers right around the age of 26-27.

Eddie Gaven was not one of those players. And that’s OK!

His retirement, however, comes at a very interesting time. The New England Revolution have found their own teenage phenom in Diego Fagundez. At the age of 18 he is leading his team into the MLS playoffs and appears to have a bright future ahead of him. I would be stunned if he wound up retiring at the age of 27 like Gaven. He’ll go on to have a long and prosperous career, whether it’s in MLS or elsewhere. He’ll be one of those “robots” I mentioned.

With Gaven retiring right before New England takes on Kansas City in the Eastern Conference playoffs, it appears we have closed the book on one chapter in American soccer history and opened another. Eddie Gaven’s retirement signals the end of the “teenage phenom” era of MLS and American Soccer. With the arrival of Fagundez and other young players like Columbus’s Wil Trapp, Real Salt Lake’s Luis Gil, and even former DC United winger Andy Najar, we are no longer wowed by young players under the age of 21 starting regularly for MLS teams. Take a look over at Europe and you’ll see guys like 20 year old John Anthony Brooks playing regularly with Germany’s Hertha Berlin. 18 year old midfield sensation Julian Green has been tearing it up with Bayern Munich’s reserves and looks poised to receive his first US Men’s National team call up. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him make a couple appearances with Bayern’s first team in the next year or two. And that team is stacked!

Yes, other teenage phenoms from MLS’s dark past like Landon Donovan and Freddy Adu are still playing and won’t call it quits so soon. But the timing of Gaven’s retirement is still significant in terms of how far we’ve come in terms of expectations for player development in American soccer. There is still a ton of room to grow, but the first step is recognizing the need for players to get meaningful first team minutes early on.

As I mentioned above, Eddie Gaven lost the burning desire needed to succeed at such a high level much quicker than most players. And again: that’s OK! Landon Donovan has also lost that desire to a certain extent given his “sabbatical” last December and his decision to leave an impressive stint at Everton to return to MLS where he is less challenged as a player. However, Gaven will still be the last player we see retire at such a young age. He’s the last of the “old” teenage phenoms if you will; the ones who used up their passion a bit too quickly. Now we’ll start to see young Americans keep that passion kindled throughout long and prosperous professional careers.

Please don’t think of Eddie Gaven as a quitter though. He’s not. He’s simply the last of one generation of American soccer players. He can hold his head high walking away on his own terms.

And he can do so knowing he helped usher in a new generation of American soccer players.

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.


Lessons Learned

 Posted by on April 8, 2013 at 8:09 pm  Blogs/Media, Columbus Crew, MLS, United States
Apr 082013

I have long defended Robert Warzycha.

I respect the way he approaches managing a team both on and off the field. He is a consummate professional.

Unfortunately, he is starting to plant seeds of doubt in my mind about his tactical prowess. Part of said prowess includes managing his players’ egos on a week to week basis. Saturday’s come-from-behind draw with Philadelphia concluded the first five games of the 2013 regular season and presented Robert Warzycha with pretty much everything he needs to worry about going forward.

In no particular order…

Dominic Oduro Cannot Start

…unless he is partnered with Jairo Arrieta up top. Saturday marked the first time in his Columbus career that Arrieta was not a member of the Starting XI. Having been called up by his native Costa Rica recently for his fine form since joining the Crew, Arrieta’s ego is ripe for offense. To go another match without starting Arrieta would be a huge mistake on Warzycha’s part.

Then there’s the actual tactical issues.

After five games, I think it’s safe to assume that Oduro and his blazing fast speed are better deployed in some sort of advanced forward role rather out wide on the right. Arrieta does well to hold the ball up despite his lack of size and strength. He is more than capable of combining with Oduro and Federico Higuain to form a potent trident on the attack. I don’t have numbers to prove it, but I’m sure said numbers would tell us that the Costa Rica international finishes much more efficiently than Oduro.

The Backline Needs More Speed

Offside or not, Philadelphia’s goal showed that while Chad Marshall and Glauber are incredibly strong in the air, they are lacking in simple foot speed. Marshall would do well to avoid the offside trap as much as possible from here on out.

I’ve spoken highly of Drew Beckie’s athleticism and I still think he deserves a chance to show us what he can do, but he’s not a long term solution. Warzycha should be trying as hard as he can to cut out the offside trap from the overall game plan.

The Viana-O’Rourke Pairing Doesn’t Work

Neither of them have anything to offer going forward, which just makes life all the more difficult for Federico Higuain. Both are also very prone to “reckless” challenges and thus are high risks for cards.

I’m glad to see I’m not the only one scratching their head as to why we don’t see more of Matias Sanchez. I like him as a distributor much better than Viana or O’Rourke and he inspires a lot more confidence with the ball at his feet in general. The same can be said of Will Trapp, but he’s got enough on his plate with the US U-20 team this summer while Tony Tchani is still a huge question mark.

Sanchez is the answer in central midfield…for now.

Don’t Forget About Justin Meram And Ryan Finley

Especially Meram!

His game is the same as the newly revealed Ben Speas. He’s great on the ball and has a good shot from distance. It’s hard to find a spot for him with Speas playing so well and Eddie Gaven being Eddie Gaven, but Meram should probably be platooning the left flank with Speas for the time being.

Ryan Finley faces the same issue: there doesn’t appear to be a regular starting spot for him. But unlike Meram, Finley has something to distinguish himself from his competition: soccer IQ. Finley knows how and (more importantly) when to make all the right runs in behind the defense. He’s also as strong as he is quick and finishes just as lethally as Arrieta. Warzycha need not be afraid of playing him just because of his age.

These are the biggest issues facing the 2013 Columbus Crew. If Robert Waryzcha can solve these four riddles, there’s no reason the Crew can’t contend for an Eastern Conference crown. If he can’t then perhaps it’s time Mark McCullers started looking elsewhere for a head coach in 2014.


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 262013

The 2013 Columbus midfielder remains largely unchanged. Milovan Mirosevic has returned to Chile, but in comes 25 year old Argentine Matias Sanchez. He doesn’t stuff the stat sheet and he doesn’t dazzle with his passing or shooting. No, the value of Matias Sanchez is hardly quantifiable. Sanchez won the 2007 U-20 World Cup in Argentina and participated in the 2009 Copa Libertadores tournament with Argentina’s Estudiantes; his club for the past four years. He’s comfortable playing in big spots and he does the little things well. He’s comfortable on the ball, makes smart decisions, and rarely turns the ball over in bad spots.

In addition to Sanchez, the Crew also brought in Academy product Wil Trapp on a Homegrown deal. Trapp is currently trying to help the US U-20 team qualify for this season’s U-20 World Cup. I wrote about Trapp right after he was signed having watched him play ever since he was a freshman in high school. He’s very similar to Sanchez in that he is very comfortable on the ball and makes few mistakes distributing out of the midfield.

Out wide, Dilly Duka is gone but Justin Meram and Eddie Gaven remain excellent options on the midfield flanks as well as Bernardo Anor and Ethan Finlay. Tony Tchani and Kevan George are great backup holding midfielders for Danny O’Rourke, Matias Sanchez, and possibly Agustin Viana. Ben Speas is back after missing almost the entire 2012 season with an abdominal injury.

Here’s a quick individual breakdown…

Matias Sanchez

Plenty of big game and experience has made Sanchez very comfortable on the ball in midfield. He’s a great option as a holding midfielder to along with O’Rourke and Viana.

Wil Trapp

A younger version of Sanchez, Trapp is hoping to get some big game experience of his own with the US U-20 team in this summer’s U-20 World Cup. He won’t start right away, but I think it would be a good idea to have him on the bench on a regular basis.

Eddie Gaven

The oldest 26 year old ever, Gaven is a timeless wonder at the wide right midfield spot. He’s got a strong shot from distance and makes great runs in from the flank.

Justin Meram

With the departure of Duka, I’d like to see Meram get the start at the wide left midfield spot. He’s a great dribbler with an even better shot, but he hasn’t played well consistently enough to earn that starting spot.

Bernardo Anor

Although he’s always hurt, Anor still has great pace and is a good fit out wide on the left either in the midfield or as a left back.

Tony Tchani

At six feet, four inches Tchani is a man among boys in the midfield. He’s not the best passer, but he’s great at dispossessing opposing playmakers before they can get to the backline.

Kevan George

He may not be on the bench every match, but he’s also a solid holding midfielder.

Ethan Finlay

With an influx of forwards, Finlay will likely be utilized as a wide midfielder on either side. He was very inconsistent in 2012, but he can still provide a great spark for 15-20 minutes off the bench late in games.

Ben Speas

Now that he’s presumably 100% healthy, great things will be expected of the Crew Academy attacking midfielder out of North Carolina. Having seen so little of him last year, he’s a bit of a wild card.


The midfield remains young and largely unchanged, but there’s still plenty of talent here. Central midfielders like Speas, Sanchez, Tchani, and Trapp will be expected to shoulder more defensive responsibility thanks to Federico Higuain pulling the strings from up top. And speaking of forwards, we’ll break them all down next!