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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.



2012 Columbus Crew Season Review

 Posted by on November 5, 2012 at 9:00 am  Blogs/Media, Columbus Crew, MLS, United States
Nov 052012

It’s amazing just how much happened to the Columbus Crew organization in 2012. There was the good, the bad, and the ugly; just like every team experiences every year.

And then there was the death of Kirk Urso. Urso died on August 4th after collapsing at a local bar. Autopsy results revealed he passed away due to a genetic heart defect.

The 22 year old had been drafted by the Crew in the later rounds of January’s SuperDraft, but had an impressive preason and quickly made his way into the first team. Urso, a holding midfielder out of North Carolina, was especially adept at taking set pieces, quickly becoming the team’s designated kick taker for corners and free kicks. I couldn’t tell you why, but I felt a special connection to Urso throughout the season. Maybe it’s because he wore my high school number: 15. Maybe it’s because he had a four letter last name that begins with U; just like me. Hell, I even thought I kind of looked like the guy. Whatever the reason, his death shook me more than I expected from the death of someone I only knew about for several months and never actually met. More than anything, perhaps it was because he was actually two years younger than myself.

But there was also more to the season than that terrible tragedy.

Coming into 2012, the Crew were searching for options in the attack. They had been bounced by Colorado in the playoffs the previous year and offense was the team’s number concern. They found not one, but two answers in the forms of Costa Rica striker Jairo Arrieta and Argentine forward Federico Higuain; the older brother of Real Madrid superstar Gonzalo Higuain. Arrieta arrived in early July once the international transfer window opened and Higuain followed several weeks later. Both turned in spectacular performances throughout the second half of the regular season. Their contributions were best highlighted by a thrilling, come from behind 4-3 victory over the New England Revolution at home in August as they chased the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Trailing 2-0, Federico Higuain curled a fantastic free kick into the upper 90 to put Columbus on the board. Minutes later Jairo Arrieta, celebrating his 29th birthday, smashed a powerful shot near post to level the score. Higuain responded with a second free kick goal to give the home side the lead heading into the break. But Columbus would eventually concede a penalty kick. However, the Birthday Boy struck one last time in the 86th minute and Columbus came away with a much needed victory. More on these guys in a moment.

Columbus also received some changes off the field. In February, the team announced a new jersey sponsor: Barbasol. The shaving cream giants are base din Columbus and provided a much needed source of income for the cash strapped Crew. The deal also includes some cross promoting, including special edition Columbus Crew Barbasol shaving cream cans. Next up for Mark McCullers and Co. is a sponsor for Crew Stadium’s naming rights.

The Crew also received a new goalkeeper…sort of. William Hesmer was the No.1 guy in goal and looked to always be No.1 until his season was ruined by hip surgery that put him on the shelf for what would eventually become the entire regular season. But in his absence, the Hebrew Hammer Andy Gruenebaum rose to power. Gruenebaum was superb for Columbus throughout and many nationa pundits will tell you he was snubbed and unfairly a spot on the 2012 All-Star team. Even when Gruenebaum missed time, rookie Homegrown signing Matt Lampson out of Ohio State looked capable of minding the net.

And speaking of Homegrown signings, Lampson and young Ben Speas became the second and third Crew Academy players to be signed by the senior team this season. There are four or five other candidates for this offseason including Akron’s Will Trapp.

And now for some awards! It wouldn’t be a season review without awards so let’s go to it…

Team MVP

Many will nominate Higuain, especially after his sensational performance against New England. But my vote goes to Jairo Arrieta. The Costa Rica striker is exactly what the Crew have been searching for ever since their MLS Cup title in 2008: a consistent, reliable goal scoring threat. Arrieta and Higuain combined to form a powerful duo up top, but Arrieta is the true forward who showed a nose for the goal through his first season in Columbus. Expect double digit goals from him in 2013.

Goal Of The Year

Sebastian Miranda, the quiet, unsung workhorse for the Crew ever since his arrival, smashed home a goal from just outside the 18 WITH HIS HEAD. This should easily win Goal Of The Year for the entire league as well.

Young Player Of The Year

In his second year out of Michigan, Justin Meram, showed flashes of brilliance throughout the season as a legitimate starting option as a winger. Although his best performances came in spurts off the bench, Meram spent the entire season showing his shooting range as well as his skill with the ball at his feet. Expect big things from this youngster next season, especially if the relationship between Dilly Duka and Robert Warzycha does not improve.

Biggest Disappointment

Missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007 was incredibly disappointing for Columbus, especially when you consider they would have easily earned the final spot under last season’s rules. But ultimately the team came up short and you could easily point to their 2-2 draw in Houston back in August when Andy Gruenebaum gave away two points with his outrageous howler with less than 10 minutes left in the match.

As for an individual, Julius James struggled mightily, despite being the consistent starter at center back next to Chad Marshall. Columbus often leaked late goals and you could go back and find a lot of them that can be traced back to James. Between his lack of speed and his tendency to foul in and around the box, it’s no wonder Technical Director Brian Bliss has made finding a reliable defender his No.1 priority heading into 2013.

Best Moment

Let’s end this on a high note. The loss of Kirk Urso was incredibly difficult to deal with for the organization and its supporters. Even more difficult was the fact that Urso’s death caused Columbus’ home match against Los Angeles to be postponed. It was reschedule right in the middle of an already brutal stretch for 21 days in August. But the tributes that came through when that match was finally played were phenomenal. Everything from the moment of silence at the 15th minute to the singing of “Yellow” to the memorial created in his memory. The match ended in a 1-1 draw, but the organization (and the rest of the league for that matter) took an incredibly difficult situation and made it special.


*Check back in the coming weeks for a look at the Crew’s offseason plans going forward*




Oct 222012

For the first time in four seasons the Columbus Crew will not participate in Major League Soccer’s postseason.

Lewis Neal scored a stoppage time goal to give DC the 3-2 victory, thus cementing their own playoff spot. The loss, coupled with a Houston victory over Philadelphia, leaves Columbus hanging their heads after a very upstart, emotional second half of the season. For the first time in awhile the Crew will be watching the playoffs from home. To put things in perspective: the last time Columbus failed to make the playoffs was 2007. They won the MLS Cup the following year.

It would be one thing if they failed because they had a roster comparable to Toronto FC’s. But there are several reasons why this is such a bitter pill to swallow for Crew fans.

For starters, the team came so close and fell short despite the fact that two of its two best players (Higuain and Jairo Arrieta) were only around for a small portion of the season. Quite frankly, the beginning of the 2012 season looked bleak after William Hesmer went down and the team was still searching for a legitimate goal scoring threat up top. Not only that, but literally half the roster missed a decent amount of playing time at one point or another due to injury. Rookie home grown signing Ben Speas took a huge step back in his development by missing the entire season with an abdominal injury. Second year player Rich Balchan had a very promising rookie season last year, only to miss a large portion of this season and have his own development set back. Andy Gruenebaum came out of nowhere to play like an All-Star all season long. This Crew team had no business making the playoffs until Arrieta and Higuain arrived and changed everything. This was a golden opportunity to show the league that, even during a down year, the Crew are still a good club.

One of the reasons the Crew fell short is because of some terrible losses. Saturday night was bad enough, but there are several others that are especially painful to remember. The worst was August’s 2-2 draw with Houston after newcomer Higuain had helped the Crew take the lead, only to lose it due to an absurd error by Andy Gruenebaum. Then there were golden opportunities blown by losing to New England in August (0-2), Montreal in July (1-2), Chicago (1-2 in June), and an early season loss to Philadelphia in April. Such missed opportunities are ultimately the reason why the Crew came up short this year.

Of course, the reason such opportunities were blown was because of a truly pitiful defense. In the past the Columbus back line was quite impenetrable with Chad Marshall leading the way. But this year the Crew defense leaked a ton of goals thanks to a revolving door of second center backs like Julius James, Carlos Mendes, Danny O’Rourke, and Eric Gehrig, Scoring has always been the Crew’s biggest weakness, but as soon as Arrieta and Higuain arrived the trends were reversed. Technical Director Brian Bliss should make finding the next Chad Marshall his top priority this offseason.

For me, however, the most difficult part of not making the playoffs comes from simply looking across the country. The Crew have 49 points with one game left to play and are on the outside looking in. In the Western Conference, your final playoff team is…the Vancouver Whitecaps with a whopping 42. And if this were any other year, the ridiculous playoff structure would have let Columbus in over Vancouver. In years past the best team, regardless of conference affiliation, made the playoffs. Not this year. And you can bet if Columbus was in and Houston out, people would be screaming about why Houston had to sit out and why they couldn’t play in the Western Conference.

There will lots to talk about regarding Columbus’ upcoming offseason, but for now we’re left to mope and wonder.



The Million MASSIVE Man March

 Posted by on October 18, 2012 at 11:01 pm  Blogs/Media, Columbus Crew, MLS, United States
Oct 182012

Asinine Alliteration Batman!

Columbus (and a hundred of their most loyal supporters) will make the trip to our nation’s capital this week with only thing on their mind: victory.

The math is a bit complicated, but here’s the only scenario the Crew should be concerned with: Win and you’re in!


Should Columbus defeat DC this weekend and Toronto in Columbus next weekend, a single point dropped by Houston in their final two matches would give Columbus a playoff spot. Losses and ties only complicate things so for now let’s focus on that scenario.

The international break gave a lot of Crew players a chance to rest up and get healthy. Josh Williams has been cleared to play and Rich Balchan is rumored to be in Robert Warzycha’s plans an 18 man squad this weekend. Heck, even William Hesmer made an appearance at training this week! Side note: I could not be more excited have a healthy Rich Balchan back. He should a ton of potential as a rookie  last season and I’m anxious to see him playing regularly. Unfortunately I can’t say the same about Williams, but he really is the best option at the back at this point.

So it’s do or die for the Black And Yellow! To set the table for you, DC United has scored just five goals in their last six matches since losing Dwayne de Rasario to injury. Unfortunately they’ve also managed to go 3-0-2 in that stretch and all but cement a playoff spot of their own. So am I trotting out for this MASSIVE fixture at RFK? Let’s take a look…



Miranda – Marshall – James – Williams


Gaven – Mirosevic – Duka

Arrieta – Higuain

 It’s time to pull out all the stops. DC is obviously hurting for goals without De Rosario, so scoring should be the No.1 priority for Robert Warzycha. I don’t like how much Higuain has had to come back to get the ball. Mirosevic needs to be the one setting the table for Higuain and Jairo Arrieta. I’m not sure if he can do it all by himself, but I’ve been mildly impressed with TonyTchani as a holding midfielder this season. At 6’4 he’s a nightmare match playing anywhere in front of the back four. Hopefully Dilly Duka and Warzycha have settled their spat so that the U-23 international can get back to being the club’s creative spark on the wing.

A draw is truly no good this weekend. Three points are essential. It’s hard having not seen the Crew play a competitive match for so long, but I have a feeling they will get it done this weekend setting up a favorable home finale with lowly Toronto.

Prediction: Columbus 2-1 DC United

Sep 272012

The MLS regular season is winding down faster than we think. Columbus has just four games remaining.

First up: Philadelphia

(If you must know, the rest are Toronto and Sporting KC at home plus a MASSIVE trip to DC towards the end of October)

The Union are a hot mess right now and thus, a fantastic opponent as the Crew NEED three points this weekend. A tie is simply not good enough. Rich Balchan is finally back and could make his return in the reserve match this weekend. Carlos Mendes practiced, but isn’t quite ready. Dilly Duka seems to have cleared his head and should be ready to go. Things are finally starting to come together for Columbus. If you can’t get up for this game then there’s really no hope the rest of the way.

Saturday night will tell us a lot about this Crew squad. It will also tell us a lot about Crew fans. Ohio State has a game against Michigan State, albeit on the road. Crew fans have been turning out pretty well lately and Saturday’s match is a must win for playoff hopes, but I wonder how many will be willing to make the trip to the fairgrounds on the heels of an Ohio State game.

Robert Warzycha has said he prefers Josh Williams over Sasha Vukovic. Last week I stated my desire to see Vukovic get the start, but now it doesn’t look like I’ll get my wish. It sure would be nice if Rich Balchan was 100% ready to go! Not to mention Carlos Mendes, who has to be better than Julius James at this point.

So what should Saturday night’s lineup look like? Here’s what I think…


Miranda – Marshall – James – Williams


                                                                                                    Duka                                                      Gaven


Higuain – Arrieta

If Federico Higuain is going to be effective, he needs to be as far up as possible; even if it’s in an unnatural position like striker. Chris Birchall hasn’t played since the loss to New England. Before that he featured regularly during the August hot streak. I think he deserves a shot at the holding midfield spot and that would allow Milo to be more involved in the attack.

I believe in this team and Saturday night is the kind of game that this team has been able win ever since Arrieta and Higuain arrived. I see a victory in the future and trip to the playoffs down the road!

Prediction: Columbus 2-1 Philadelphia


Down, But Not Out (Crew 1-2 Fire)

 Posted by on September 23, 2012 at 2:56 pm  Blogs/Media, Columbus Crew, MLS, United States
Sep 232012

Despite Jairo Arrieta’s best effort to “inspire” his team, Columbus failed to pick up any points on the road against Chicago in a match that was vital to their playoff chances.

Arrieta intercepted an absolutely baffling gaffe from Chicago keeper Sean Johnson and put the Crew up 1-0 early. Unfortunately for Columbus, Ohio native Chris Rolfe quickly netted two goals of his own and Chicago held on for the victory. The beneficiary of a porous Columbus back line, Rolfe easily looked like the most dangerous man on the field throughout the evening. Columbus did hold an advantage in possession throughout the second half and created a handful of legitimate chances, but were left hanging their heads in disappointment at the end of the night.

Julius James and Josh Williams both looked to be out of sorts throughout the match as Rolfe was able to run free throughout the course of the match. I’m glad both of these guys give it their all every match, but right now neither one of them is playing well enough to warrant a spot in the Starting XI. Granted, Columbus’ injury report is longer than line at your nearest Apple store but at this point I’d be happy to see Eric Gehrig get another crack at being Chad Marshall’s partner in defense. Marshall must have the patience of a saint  to put up with the likes of James and Williams as he looked like he was the only one who had a clue about how to defend like a professional.

The defense’s job wasn’t made any easier by the fact that Emilio Renteria started the match as wide midfielder after Dilly Duka went home for what Robert Warzycha called “personal reasons”. My gut feeling is this was a disciplinary issue. Duka  has been subbed out early in each of his previous two starts and I’m not entirely sure why. He’s played well and been a bright spot in the attack. He’s also one of the more creative attackers off the dribble on this team. But all of that aside, Emilio Renteria is not here to track back and defend against Alvaro Fernandez. Fernandez ate Renteria’s lunch all night and frustrated the Venezuelan international into a yellow card in the first half.

Despite the all around poor performance, there is still a silver lining for Columbus. They have four matches left and three of them are at home. Not only that, but two are against Eastern Conference cellar dwellers Philly and Toronto. There’s also a visit from Kansas City and a trip to DC in the mix as well with the latter being by far the biggest match left to play. This team has shown too much fight to wither down the stretch. Remember how bad this time of year was last season? Columbus STILL made it into the playoffs after all that. A win next week against Philly is very much attainable and should provide enough momentum to help finish out the regular season.

That being said, I still think the lineup needs a bit of a tweak. Here’s  what I’d like to see down the stretch…


Miranda – Marshall – Gehrig – Vukovic

Gaven – Tchani – Mirosevic

Higuain – Arrieta – Duka

Subs: Lampson, O’Rourke, Williams, Birchall, Renteria, Meram, Vargas

Okay, so that actually took a lot longer than I expected. Against Chicago, Miranda and (especially) Williams were getting forward because there was almost no width to the attack. Playing a 4-3-3 creates less of a need for those two to come forward and gives them more time to attack. Another problem was Higuain having to come too far back to get the ball. Mirosevic can be very valuable in the attack but there’s too much of a hole at the back to let him venture forward. Tchani is great at distributing out of the back of the midfield, but he doesn’t have the speed to cover sideline to sideline by himself. So in the end, MIrosevic’s attacking prowess has to take a back seat and Gaven has to play a bit more central than I’d like. But at least Higuain has freedom to roam wide and he and Duka can provide some service to Arrieta. It’s not ideal, but it’s the best I can come up with based on who’s available right now.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll have something better by Saturday!