MLS preview: Columbus Crew capsule
With the 2011 MLS season set to begin next week, WagerWeb.com presents a quick look at each team for America’s top soccer league.
2010 record and finish: 14-8-8 (2nd place in Eastern Conference)
Key additions: F Jeff Cunningham; D Sebastian Miranda; GK, Ray Burse, D Juluus James
Key losses: D Eric Brunner; M Adam Moffat; F Jason Garey; M Brian Carroll; M Guillermo Barros Schelotto; D Frankie Hejduk; F Steven Lenhart; D Gino Padula.
The Crew advanced to the knockout stages of the CONCACAF Champions League for the second year in a row, finishing second in Group B, one point behind Santos Laguna. Despite giving hearty minutes to reserves in the competition, the Black and Gold conceded just four times in the group stage, tying the best record in the tournament with Group C winner Monterrey. The Crew also made the U.S. Open Cup final, where they were unfortunate to play Seattle Sounders FC on their home turf at Qwest Field, and Seattle prevailed 2-1. In league play, the Crew started off hotter than any team except then the seemingly world-beating LA Galaxy, beginning the 2010 campaign 6-2-3 before the World Cup break.
Another bright spot in for the Black and Gold was the surprising performance of rookie fullback Shaun Francis. The fourth round pick in the SuperDraft, he filled in for Gino Padula when the Argentine went down injured, and Francis never looked back. He did make his share of mistakes, but he improved his play with every game and was rewarded for his performances with a call-up to the Jamaican national team. The future is bright for the fullback.
In four years with Argentinean playmaker Guillermo Barros Schelotto pulling the strings, the Crew won an MLS Cup, won the Supporters Shield twice, made it to the U.S. Open Cup final once and reached the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals twice. In that span, GBS scored 35 goals and dished out 48 assists. The 37-year-old Boca Juniors legend has since moved back to Argentina to join Gimnasia La Plata. “It was time for a change,” explained head coach Robert Warzycha, who had the strange habit of either benching Barros Schelotto or subbing him out early whenever the playoffs came around. “It was a lot of pressure on Guillermo from game to game, and now it’s going to be on other players.” Indeed, the Crew never amounted to much before Barros Schelotto showed up. Will they now that he’s gone?
Without its franchise icon, Columbus will look different — and have a different style — this year. “We’re going to play a little bit different soccer,” Warzycha said. “More dynamic soccer.” There’s no reason this Crew can’t still be a good team. There’s still plenty of quality there, and, for the first time, some quality up front. But, warned Warzycha, “Like every team that has so many changes, we just need time to jell.”