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Columbus Crew Holiday Shopping List

 Posted by on November 15, 2012 at 9:33 am  Blogs/Media, Columbus Crew, MLS, United States
Nov 152012

Most people wish Christmas would last all year. Unlike most people, I’m actually going to attempt to make it happen.

Below is my Holiday Wish List for the Columbus Crew in 2013. For the purpose of this exercise a “lump of coal” will be the worst case scenario and a “brand new toy” will be the best case scenario.

A New Center Back

Chad Marshall isn’t getting any younger. It’s time the Crew started searching for the Next Big Thing at center back. And while they’re at it they should find two of said Big Thing. Marshall, in all his constantly degrading speed and ability, never had a consistent, acceptable partner in the center of the Crew defense this past season. Fortunately Technical Director Brian Bliss has stated that this is his No.1 priority going into the off-season. He has a number of options and has gone on record saying he will explore all of them.

Lump Of Coal: The team tries go the trade route the same way it did to bring in the oft injured Carlos Mendes.

Brand New Toy: Bliss continues to build his resume of bringing in talented Argentinian players nobody else seems to know about (i.e. Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Federico Higuain) and finds a young, strong ox of a center back who can also create of the back who can start immediately and for the next 8-10 year.

Prediction: The team uses its first pick in January’s Superdraft to take the best available defender prospect.

A New Holding Midfielder

Kirk Urso (may he rest in peace) looked well on his way to grabbing this crucial position and making it his for the next decade. Unfortunately his tragic and sudden death forced the Crew to experiment with everyone from Milovan Mirosevic to Tony Tchani to MLS veteran Chris Birchall at the position. Mirosevic is better served working in a trequartista-type role so this position should be a priority for the Crew as well. Tchani showed some potential and he certainly has the physical stature and ability to do the dirty work the position requires, but it remains to be seen if he can effectively start a counterattack or new spell of possession with solid passing out of the back.

Lump Of Coal: The team brings in half a dozen trialists from all over the globe, all of whom we’ve never heard of and has to pick one due to financial hardship. This mystery Holding Midfielder X winds up being another Shaun Francis who has to play by default, but is also constantly dinged up due to injury and the position becomes a liability more than a strength.

Brand New Toy: The front office somehow manages to trade for former Crew player Adam Moffat (now with the MLS Cup bound Houston Dynamo) and the Scotsman continues his standout play for the team who was forced to give him up due to the league’s many rules and regulations used to manufacture parity.

Prediction: The club has an option for Tony Tchani, but has yet to reveal if they’ll pick it up or not. I have a feeling they will and they will give him the chance to earn the starting spot.

A New Stadium Sponsor

The team took a MASSIVE step in the right direction when they inked Barbasol to a multi-year deal as the team’s jersey sponsor. Now it’s time for the team to achieve another of GM Mark McCullers’ Big 3 Goals: a stadium sponsor. Unfortunately there aren’t too many companies based in Columbus (or Ohio for that matter) who can foot such a large bill. Fast Fast giants Wendy’s call Dublin home and grocery chain Kroger is based in Cincinnati along with Proctor & Gamble. Unfortunately I can’t see any of them signing on. This one might be the toughest ask of all.

Lump Of Coal: The team’s inability to land a stadium sponsor frustrates the Hunt Sports Group into selling off the Crew quicker than expected. The new owners buy the Black And Gold only under the condition the team can be relocated. Bye Bye Columbus!

Brand New Toy: With hockey going nowhere in a hurry, Nationwide Insurance somehow manages exit its deal with the home for the Blue Jackets and instead Crew Stadium at Nationwide Park is born and moved to downtown Columbus within 5-7  years.

Prediction: I sincerely doubt a stadium sponsor will be named in 2013. In fact, any sort of announcement regarding a potential stadium sponsor in the 2013 calendar would come as a shock to me.

Dilly Duka

Duka and head coach Robert Warzycha butted heads in the second half of the season. The young left sided midfielder was poised for a breakout season but struggled to get consistent matches where he featured for all 90 minutes. If he’s truly unhappy, it’s possible he could wind up leaving thus creating a MASSIVE need for a new technically gifted winger to complement Eddie Gaven and Justin Meram.

Lump Of Coal: Duka departs and winds up playing for his native New York Red Bulls, who continue to dominate the Crew during the regular season in 2013.

Brand New Toy: The young midfielder swallows his pride and is rewarded for his loyalty with increased 90 minute shifts and tallies 7 goals to go along with 7 assists and starts to attract the attention of Jurgen Klinsmann.

Prediction: Duka comes back and continues to butt heads with Warzycha, who is already infamous for alienating Guillermo Barros Schelotto.

A New Head Coach

April Fools! (I know, I know)

I actually like Warzycha a lot. Many Crew supporters will tell you he is the problem and they will point to his feuds with the previously mentioned Schelotto as well as Dilly Duka. I happen to enjoy his no nonsense, all business approach to training and games. I think he’s a great fit for this team and most if not all of his players have bought into his approach by now. It’s no coincidence that in today’s world of the MLS Disciplinary Committee, Crew players are rarely found on the blotter.

But if Warzycha were to leave, the best Christmas present ever would be a double fisting Frankie Hejduk sitting at a podium trying to introduce Duncan Oughton as his right hand man for the new and improved Columbus Crew.


Stay tuned for more off-season updates as they develop!





Sep 072012

Well it’s true!

Even the most ardent Crew supporters wouldn’t tell you they thought the team would run the table the rest of the season. Quite frankly, I’m surprised it was the final game of a “7 in 21 days” stretch that ultimately caught up to the Crew. This team has been battling injuries all season and I had concerns about such a difficult stretch for the Black And Yellow.

I must admit, I was not able to view this match in its entirety either. I know, I’m slipping! Luckily I’m getting out of retail and back into 9-5 hours! The major talking point seems to be Chad Marshall’s own goal that doubled New England’s lead. It was very uncharacteristic of the Columbus captain, although Crew haters will try to tell you that his lack of speed (exposed during that fateful error) is what ultimately keeps him from starring for the US Men’s National Team. Personally, I think it was tired legs catching up with the Stanford product. The same goes for the rest of the team. The high had to wear off at some point. Did it come against a lousy team? Yes, but that’s irrelevant.

What’s important now is focusing on September 15′s trip to New York. The Crew have nine days off to rest up and prepare. The significance of this turn of events cannot be overstated. What this team needs more than anything is to get healthy. It’s a miracle nothing happened to Jairo Arrieta, Federico Higuain, or the Ageless One Eddie Gaven. Beyond New York, Columbus has a lot of matches down the stretch with fellow Eastern Conference playoff contenders (Sporting KC and DC United chief among them) so they really need time off get prepared physically and (more importantly) mentally for the regular season finale.

So yes, Wednesday night’s loss as disappointing. But it was also necessary. Now the team can recover and prepare for the next wave. Let’s hope Higuain and Arrieta are up to the challenge!




Aug 302012

Score us a goal tonight!

‘Cus we’re all in the mood for a victory

And you’ve got us feeling alright!     

One blog post cannot speak to everything that happened in last night’s 2-1 victory in Philadelphia, so for now we’ll stick with the result.

After missing a sitter earlier in the second half, Eddie Gaven made sure not to fluff his (and the Crew’s) final chance of the evening just moments before the final whistle blew. Justin Meram fired a low, hard shot that took a kind deflection and fell right at The Bearded One’s feet and he made sure Columbus left town with three points in hand. Perhaps the deflection was well deserved after Columbus surrendered their goal off of an unkind deflection on a free kick in the first half. Sandwiched in between those two goals, Josh Williams got his head on a Federico Higuain free kick and directed it just inside the post to level the score at 1-1.

Unfortunately for Williams, he would not get the chance to celebrate Gaven’s goal on the field. In the second half Williams received a red card for shoving Philadelphia’s Antoine Hoppenot during a dead ball situation behind the play. He really has no one to blame but himself and he admitted as much afterwards. Williams has a fiery streak to him and in a pivotal moment in a crucial match he let his emotions get the best of him. Fortunately, Gaven was there to save the day at the end.

But the man of the match (as voted by Crew fans watching last night) had to be rookie goalkeeper Matt Lampson. The Ohio State/Crew Academy product stepped in for injured starter Andy Gruenebaum (who has been stepping in for the real No.1, William Hesmer) and came up with some MASSIVE saves after Williams was tossed and the Crew went down to 10 men. It seems goalkeeper is one position the Crew need not worry about.

So what else did we learn from last night’s thrilling victory?


-There’s something very unlikable about Josh Williams. He was busted for using performance enhancing drugs last season and his hair/general attitude just make him a very rough character.

-Matt Lampson would not be needed so much if the Crew could figure out what to do about Chad Marshall’s center back partner. Carlos Mendes is gone for another 4-6 weeks and I no longer trust Julius James or Danny O’Rourke. Now may not be the best time to tinker with the lineup, but I’d like to see Eric Gehrig get another shot.

-I’m still not convinced Chris Birchall is the No.1 guy for that CDM spot, even when paired with Milo Mirosevic.


-Columbus proved they can win even without goals from Higuain and Jairo Arrieta.

-For all his unlikeable-ness, Josh Williams works his tail off and he earned that goal.

-Justin Meram showed more flashes of brilliance, especially with his effort that led to Gaven’s winner. It took a big stop from the keeper to keep that ball out.

-3 POINTS!!!


Last night was a classic Columbus Crew performance. Even when the odds are stacked against them, this team will NEVER quit. There can be no doubt that there are forces beyond our control working behind the scenes right now as the MASSIVE club are coming together at exactly the right time and getting results they so desperately need to make the playoffs. With last night’s win the Crew have 39 points which puts them a mere three behind Houston for third place in the East. That’s right: THIRD PLACE is only three points away! Not only that, but Columbus also still haven’t caught up to the rest of the league in terms of games played.

Saturday means a trip back to Columbus to take on Montreal, who also have 39 points but have played three more games as well. This is another must win for Columbus. Tired legs will start to kick in this weekend, but there’s a light coming at the end of the tunnel. After hosting Montreal Saturday, the Crew have one more quick turnaround as they make a trip to New England next Wednesday night. A win against Montreal will allow for a draw against New England.

After that the lads can take a nice, long 10 day break before a MASSIVE trip to Red Bull Arena.

Then things will really get interesting.





Aug 232012

It took Federico Higuain less than 90 minutes to score his first MLS goal for the Columbus Crew as they defeated Toronto FC 2-1. The Argentine forward made his first start for the Black And Yellow after coming on as a halftime sub against Houston on Sunday; a game in which he also looked to provide an attacking spark that the Crew have so desperately desired.

(And for those wondering, I am not David Burgin. Unfortunately David will no longer be covering Columbus for GFT but fear not! I may blog for Liverpool as well, but I grew up in Columbus so I am well versed in all things MASSIVE)

So let’s reset the scene for a moment: Last night’s victory was the third match for Columbus in the last seven days. They tied LA 1-1 last Wednesday and gave away two points on Sunday night in Houston thanks to the Hebrew Hammer’s fumblerooski. Saturday night New England comes to town and then comes Philadelphia. The Crew are currently seven points behind DC United for the last playoff spot in the East but also have one less game played. So in other words: these next two (very much winnable) matches against New England and Philly are truly MASSIVE.

But back to last night.

Higuain’s second half goal proved to be the difference as Toronto did manage to pull one back. The Crew’s first goal came from Eddie Gaven in the fourth minute when his shot from outside the box received a fortuitous deflection. Call it karma repaying the Crew for Andy Gruenebaum’s blunder on Sunday.

So what did we learn from this match?


-The back four continue to struggle to look cohesive. The defending leading up to Toronto’s goal was criminal. Why the normally stout Chard Marshall is having difficulty holding things together at the back is beyond me. Your guess is as good as mine.

-It probably also doesn’t help that Chris Birchall hasn’t played superb at the holding midfield spot. In my opinion this is Columbus’ biggest need right now. When they had possession they looked dangerous, but they need someone who can get back to help the back four and retrieve the ball. And no, I don’t necessarily think Tony Tchani is the answer either. Cole Grossman has only played a couple times this season so I’m willing to give him more time to prove himself.

-Jairo Arrieta continues to struggle in front of goal. He might be pressing a bit too much, but he had several poor first touches in the box last night and he failed to create any dangerous shots. I’m not worried though as he and Higuain and Eddie Gaven are forming a formidable trio in the final third right now. They’ll only get better with time.

-The crowd certainly left a lot to be desired, but to be fair this was a Wednesday night makeup game. It hasn’t been on the schedule all year and it never would have occurred if not for Kirk Urso’s tragic death. And as I told a buddy of mine: it’s one thing to have a sparse crowd, it’s another to have it in a stadium built for 25,000 when most of today’s new stadiums around the league are built for less than 20K.


-The Other Higuain has been a huge difference maker since his arrival. He has the kind of technical ability that can make most MLS defenders extremely nervous. He also seems to have a nose for goal whether he’s scoring himself and setting someone else up a la Sunday night’s second half goal against Houston. And the best part is that he’s only 27! He’s got a chance to be the next Guillermo only for a much longer period of time.

-Eddie Gaven continues to find the ball at his feet with an opportunity to score and he continues to take advantage. Hard to believe he’s only 25, but the Bearded One is getting hot at the right time for Columbus.

-As I said before, when they held possession the Crew were quite dangerous. Things finally seeming to be coming together with the arrival of Higuain and there’s a lot to be excited about going forward; especially the upcoming opponents.


The defense struggled mightily at times last night, but ultimately Columbus got the three points they so desperately need at this point in the season. I really liked the Starting XI that was chosen, but I would probably swap either Tchani or Grossman in for Birchall and Dilly Duka or Justin Meram for Emilio Renteria. The biggest issue for Columbus this season has been failing to field a consistent Starting XI due to injuries. I think last night showed us the best combination going forward and if they can all play together consistently then I think this team is capable of getting hot down the stretch and finding a way into the playoffs. With New England and Philadelphia coming up next, anything less than six points could be devastating.




DC United 1-0 Columbus Crew

 Posted by on August 5, 2012 at 4:50 am  Columbus Crew, MLS
Aug 052012

Saturday, August 4, 2012
By: David Burgin

Good things come in small packages, and sometimes in packages both tiny and hard to discern. The positive start to tonight’s match in RFK Stadium was one of those things. Eleven Crew players appeared to play as one throughout much of the first forty five minutes in the sweltering heat of our nation’s capital. 

Spacing between defenders and midfielders, as well as midfielders and advanced players allowed the Black and Gold to find frequent periods of possession. Along with the, up to this point in the season, hard to come by cohesive movement and team possession of the ball, The Crew found their way into the DC penalty area a handful of times. A few of those times were not the usual down the wing and swing the ball into the box kind of attacks. No, a few of those times consisted of smart, crisp play which found Columbus in tight control of the ball’s ultimate destination. In other words: The Crew appeared, as a unit, to want to work together to find the gaps in DC’s back line.

The fact that the last touch finishing off The Crew’s most coherent and professional forays into United’s penalty area was wanting tonight is disappointing. But, when taken as a whole, the small package that was the first half contained numerous sustained impressions of the above mentioned cohesiveness and possession.

Jairo Arrieta did a nice job of showing into dangerous spaces, which also happened to be spaces his teammates could effectively play the ball into. Arrieta created great trouble for United’s back four when finding these spaces on the move.

Eddie Gaven did his usual consistent job of working to win possession and keep it for his team. No matter where Eddie plays, his pluses greatly outweigh his minuses.

Justin Meram had a much better game as a wing midfielder tonight. Robert Warzycha seems determined to use Meram in this position. Warzycha’s persistence in playing Meram as an end line to end line wing mid is clearly making Meram a better all around player. Meram has yet to stamp his signature on the position, the way he did earlier in the season at the wing attacking position, but the Michigan University products improvement is a positive.

Dilly Duka also continues to show promise. Tonight, his role running end line to end line on the left found him in dangerous positions, with the ball at his foot, more than a few times. Duka’s effectiveness on the ball suffers somewhat with all the running and defending he is doing, but, like Meram, Dilly is diligently trying to fit into the role Warzycha sees him taking.

The players mentioned above, and the rest of Columbus’ starting eleven have begun to figure each other out. If Frederico Higuain comes in and assumes a creative role, a role where he draws defenders to him and then plays the dangerous pass, he will fit snugly into the center of pitch and behind Arrieta. If his inclusion forces teams to pinch in to stop him, Duka and Meram will be able to play more advanced roles with less defensive responsibilities, which in turn will allow them to do what they do best, beat players one versus one in and around the opposing teams penalty area. 

DC United got the points tonight. They are a tough team to beat at home. The Crew, as a team, should be angry they didn’t finish better. But, the Black and Gold have a half of soccer, a coherent and professional half of soccer to take into the stretch run of Major League Soccer’s 2012 season. The boys from Hudson Street are becoming a dangerous bunch. Here’s to more of the same and a little Higuain to boot.

The Crew still have it all to do…


May 242012

Thursday, May 24, 2012
By: David Burgin

In form goal keepers are a sight to behold. The last four days, and West coast games against San Jose and Seattle have seen Andy Gruenebaum become soccer’s version of Halley’s Comet. 

With hundreds of Frogs and Toads belting out their version of the underdog’s aria from the pond not far from my open window, I watched Gruenebaum and his Columbus Crew teammates shoot across the unfriendly confines of the Seattle Sounder’s packed stadium; finishing a daunting two game West coast road trip with a stunning 2-0 victory over the Emerald City team. Joining Andy Gruenebaum in the spectacular night time display, once again, was Justin Meram. 

Meram showed why he is quickly becoming The Crew’s most dangerous offensive weapon. A confidently taken diving header, off a cross by Dilly Duka, the other attacking winger in Robert Warzycha’s, inspired, two offensive minded wingers formation, put the team in the newly minted white with black and gold trim jerseys 1-0 up against the run of play. 

Meram’s finishing isn’t the only thing noticeable about the second year man from the University of Michigan. When he is in his comfort zone, forward and on the wing, Justin plays quick one and two touch soccer which draws his teammates into play. The combination of his unselfish play out of pressure and his ability to get behind the opposing teams defenders makes Justin a player to be respected in the attacking third. 

The inclusion, by Robert Warzycha, of not only Meram in an advanced role, but also Duka in the same advanced position on the opposite touch line allowed both players to find their rhythm in the game. If you saw Duka play with the under twenty three team before this season, you know that the advanced wing position is where he is most comfortable. Duka’s ability to duck inside and drop into the midfield when needed, as well as his developing ability to recognize when the space is not there to create on the wing, make him another dangerous cog in the Columbus arsenal.

Other players stood out last night in a game that the Columbus Crew managed much better than the match against San Jose. While Seattle had more of the possession, and quite a few more chances, The Crew, as a team, was positionally more sound than they were in the game against the Earthquakes. The chances the Sounders created were not nearly as dangerous as the chances the Black and Gold gave up on Saturday in San Jose. Eddie Gaven did a nice job shuttling between the dual roles of being Emilio Renteria’s partner up top and dropping into the central midfield to clog things and help win possession. Eddie certainly has never met a run he would turn down. 

While Renteria’s goal in the second half was of the clever variety, and well taken (he lobbed the cheating Seattle goalie from twenty eight yards out), that one goal cannot mask the fact that Emilio must become a more reliable part of the new Crew style. His receiving, holding and distributing of balls that are played cleanly to him is, honestly, woeful at times. There was a long stretch of time in the second half when Emilio could not bring the rest of his teammates into the game after his first touch. He repeatedly gave possession away, and almost single handedly made it impossible for The Crew defense to catch their breath. 

The entire Columbus Crew team won’t have much time to catch their breath in the next six days. Following the two game road trip out west, The Crew come home for a Saturday, May 26th, match against the Chicago Fire. Three days later, Tuesday, May 29th, the Black and Gold host the Dayton Dutch Lions in an Open Cup match. Both games kick off at 7:30pm in Crew Stadium.

Four points earned in two of the most difficult games so far this season are four golden points. Winning for the first time in Seattle should add to the confidence slowly becoming evident in the young Crew players. Now, can they carry that confidence and momentum back home? We shall see, they still have it all to do.


The Fire are Coming! The Fire are Coming!

 Posted by on June 10, 2011 at 5:11 pm  Uncategorized
Jun 102011

Friday, June 10, 2011
By: David Burgin

Sunday, June 12, 4pm eastern time! Prediction of great weather, better soccer, and big crowd!

Ever since Robert Warzycha changed the tenor of his Columbus Crew’s philosophy from one of defend in numbers and hope to get three or four good shots a game, to one of trust in good players to play very good soccer as a team, the Crew has scored six goals in the last three games while giving up four. The previous ten matches saw the Crew score eight goals while giving up ten.

So you say “The Crew is a fifty/fifty club when it comes to goals for versus goals against, so what?” First off, I would answer “It matters because I said so. Nanny, nanny, boo boo.” Just kidding. This matters because the boys in black and gold are playing a more dynamic game of ball, and exhibiting some of Robert’s drive without having to line up in an ABC formation. It matters because the frequency of good attacking sequences has increased dramatically. And finally it matters because the Crew are getting better, together, in virtually all aspects of the game.

This Sunday’s game against the Fire will be a tough one, especially if Mendoza cannot play due to a broken right wrist. Andres Mendoza has very much stepped up his level of play these last few games. Even without the goals he has scored his movement with and without the ball has been good, as has the rest of the team’s. Still missing numerous players, the Crew are favorites in this match for one reason; they look like a winning side right now. Eddie Gaven and Emmanuel Ekpo are finding more joy on the field. Justin Meram is proving he can be a difference maker at this level, and the central defensive pairing of Chad Marshall and Julius James is settling in.

Hopefully Mendoza can play Sunday. The Crew are definitely deserving of more support from the stands. And wow, they’re way more fun to follow online. Can you spell c.o.n.t.r.o.v.e.r.s.y.?

I leave you with one more prediction. There will be many middle aged men and women in the stands with their children, and they will be answering their cell phones saying things like; “we will have to get back to you.”, or “We have not made a decision yet.”, and my favorite “Is that the A or the B team?” Keep your ears attuned these conversations could be entertaining. Tryouts are in full swing.