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Aug 052013

There are many problems with the Columbus Crew right now.


Many people point to a lack of talented up front when it comes to finishing. Some say it’s all because Robert Warzycha can’t figure out how to play his best players. Others will blame the front office for not spending more money on better overall talent. These are all legitimate issues. I, however, don’t see any of them as THE issue for the Crew; their No.1 concern going into next year and beyond.

I had the pleasure of attending Saturday night’s game against Houston. Yes Columbus lost, but it was still nice to finally watching the team play in person. I’m glad I had this opportunity because I was finally able to confirm my worst fear after the losses against New England and Toronto.

The biggest problem facing the Columbus Crew is the decline of Chad Marshall’s form.

The veteran center back is only 28 years old, but he’s missed so much time with concussion-related injuries that it genuinely feels like he’s in his early 30′s. It also feels like it’s been ages since Marshall won back-to-back MLS Defender Of The Year awards in 2008 and 2009. He used to be the one player Crew fans could always count on. He was the glue that held the back line together; the stereotypical “field general” commanding his troops to success. The center back position was never a concern. Columbus would always be a difficult team to score against and it was almost always thanks to Chad Marshall.

Fast forward to 2013 and we see a completely different Crew defense. While the first goal in the New England was not actually his fault, disorganization on a corner kick falls on your goalkeeper and your No.1 center back. Marshall was much more culpable on the second goal. That kind of poor pass/communication is not something we are used to seeing from Chad. He used to be better than that. He never made such poor decisions. Then it got worse in Toronto when he was straight up torched on the equalizer and completely lost track of Andrew Wiedeman on the winner for Toronto. Then there was his poorly advised challenge early in the Houston game that led to the penalty that opened the proverbial floodgates for the rest of the evening.

We’ve never seen so many critical mistakes from Chad Marshall in an entire season, much less a three game stretch like this one. The fact that Chad is only 28 almost makes things worse. If he’s becoming less and less reliable now, what will happen when he hits the “magical” age of 30 when most soccer players really start to see their form decline? Add in the fact that he’s been partnered with either Glauber Berti (older and slower than Marshall) or Danny O’Rourke (older and even more reckless) and suddenly there is a serious need at center back not just for 2014, but for the next 5-10 years. That’s what makes Marshall’s dip in performance so back-breaking: he was supposed to be one of the veterans who could hang around for the next 5 years and groom “the next Chad Marshall” who would take over as captain of the back line when Marshall turned 30.

No one on the roster currently inspires confidence. Eric Gehrig has his moments, but he’s already 24 and doesn’t get enough playing time to learn from his mistakes and get better on a regular basis. Josh Williams has so little soccer IQ that he has no choice but to slide out to the right. Kevan George didn’t inspire when he started at center back during an away game against New York in June. Chad Barson isn’t big/strong enough and Drew Beckie continues to fight minor injuries preventing him from having the opportunity to show us what he can/cannot do.

The Crew will need to look outside their current roster for a solution at one of the most vital positions on the field. Fortunately, Brian Bliss is still technical director, Robert Warzycha is almost certainly on his way out after this season, and there’s still the possibility that new Crew owners Precourt Sports Ventures will make an effort to pump some cash into the roster this offseason. There’s no reason Chad can’t break out of his slump and start playing better, but in the meantime he is clearly not the steady he used to be when he commanded one of the toughest back lines in MLS.

If his form doesn’t pick up, however, it’s simply another bullet point on a laundry list of problems facing Columbus; one they really cannot afford at this time.

Adam Uthe

VP of Content Development for GFT and proud supporter of Columbus Crew (MLS) and Liverpool FC (EPL). @AUtheGFT

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