Feb 23, 2013, 2:45 PM EDT
Each day from now until the beginning of Major League Soccer’s 18th season, we will preview one Eastern Conference team and one from the West. MLS first kick is March 2.
No. 7 in the East is the Columbus Crew:
Significant additions and subtractions: Three important South Americans will help strengthen the Crew’s first XI. Brazilian center back Gláuber gives longtime Crew backline cop Chad Marshall a stronger partner.
New midfielders Matías Sánchez and Agustín Viana means solid roster holdovers like Tony Tchani or Danny O’Rourke are now in reserve roles rather than starting roles, which makes Columbus a stronger team.
The departures are notable not in their production around Crew Stadium, but because so much had been expected of players like midfielders Milovan Mirosevic and Dilly Duka, and forward Olman Vargas.
Duka left in a huff; he’s now with Chicago, which offered up speedy Dominic Oduro in exchange.
Rich Balchan, Julius James, Chris Birchall, Carlos Mendes and Sebastian Miranda were all starters at some point who had their options declined. Also gone is William Hesmer, the longtime starter in Crew goal who has now retired.
Strengths: Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuaín were two of Major League Soccer’s top summer signings last year, in tandem generating 14 goals and 11 assists in 31 matches. Get that over an entire season and Columbus probably cruises into this year’s playoffs.
A new 4-2-3-1 look should give Higuain opportunity to “think” his way around the game, freer to freelance thanks to two defensive screeners behind him.
Generally, the roster is stronger, with a little less “average” spread around the field.
Under Warzycha, the team has always been well organized and tough to oppose. Arrieta and Higuain, plus underrated two-way man Eddie Gaven, provide the offense-defense balance that had been missing for some time in Ohio.
Pressure points: It’s time for manager Robert Warzycha to take a settled roster and move the team beyond makeover mode, where the Crew have hovered since 2010. The core is there to build around in Higuain, Arrieta, Marshall (still an above-average center back, now in his 10th professional season) and goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum.
Speaking of Gruenebaum, the pressure may feel a little different this year. Last year he could ride in heroically as Hesmer’s replacement. Now, everyone expects Gruenebaum to don the super hero’s cape – and that’s a whole other level of pressure.
The soft spots are at outside back, on either side. There’s some talent, but one of the lesser tested types needs to put a stranglehold on the position. Also along the back line, strong as Marshall can be, remaining healthy and available tends to be an issue.
Is the club past all the emotional undertow from popular midfielder Kirk Urso’s shocking death in 2012? Who could blame them if difficult moments still linger? The rookie from the University of North Carolina died from complications of a heart defect on Aug. 5.
Difference maker: Higuain was so productive over his initial 8-10 matches upon arrival in Ohio last year that he kicked up some league Most Valuable Player chatter. (Higuain did claim league Newcomer of the Year honors.)
An injury crunched the momentum and slowed the Crew’s creator for the season’s final month, tamping down a playoff push that had looked so promising through August and September. The Argentine attacker (pictured right) has all the technical tools, all the know-how and all the desire to be a premier MLS man, and to be everything that the beloved Guillermo Barros Schelotto was for so long around Crew Stadium.
Potential breakout player: Talented young attacker Justin Meram will presumably get his chances around Crew Stadium; Arrieta figures to miss quite a few matches (and probably need resting here and there) due to Costa Rican international duty in World Cup qualifiers and in this summer’s Gold Cup.
Bottom line: You have to look at Columbus as one of the truly interesting teams in 2013, if only for the tremendous potential of the Arrieta-Higuain combo. Crew president Mark McCullers is certainly optimistic, stopping just short of predicting an Eastern Conference and the MLS Cup final being played in Ohio. Honestly, on paper, it’s really not such a stretch.
May 24, 2015, 11:14 AM EDT
It was a trio for Theo, as Arsenal’s speedy Englishman helped the Gunners to a big halftime lead over West Bromwich Albion.
May 24, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT
Arsenal has a big lead in its season finale, and this goal is a big reason why.
May 24, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Storylines are abound as all 10 games have reached halftime.
May 24, 2015, 9:52 AM EDT
Garry Monk and Swansea City have secured a record Premier League points total for the club, and will look to add to it today.
May 24, 2015, 9:42 AM EDT
Nigel Pearson’s Foxes will suit up Jamie Vardy, recently called up to England, and Leonardo Ulloa. QPR’s 18-year-old striker Reece Grego-Cox will start alongside Charlie Austin.
May 24, 2015, 9:35 AM EDT
Can the Villans prepare for the FA Cup in style or will Burnley sign off with a win? Watch live online.
May 24, 2015, 9:34 AM EDT
Jack Wilshere makes his 100th Premier League appearance as Alexis Sanchez starts at the head of the attack looking to lock up third position.
May 24, 2015, 9:33 AM EDT
Romelu Lukaku, of course, spearheads the Toffees attack, while DeAndre Yedlin is on the bench for Spurs.
May 24, 2015, 9:24 AM EDT
Papiss Cisse and Emmanuel Riviere will lead Newcastle’s charge. Former NUFC manager Sam Allardyce will use ex-NUFC captain Kevin Nolan.
May 24, 2015, 9:23 AM EDT
Gerrard makes his final appearance for the Reds. Will he get a winning finish? Watch live online.
May 24, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT
Can the Saints win to seal a spot in the top six? Watch live online, here.
May 24, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT
Didier Drogba and Petr Cech both make what is likely their final appearances for Chelsea as the Blues look forward to lifting the championship trophy.
May 24, 2015, 9:08 AM EDT
The Tigers must win to have a chance of survival. Can they pull off the “great escape” at the KC? Watch live, here.
May 24, 2015, 8:45 AM EDT
How and where to watch all 10 games on the final day of the 2014-15 Premier League season.
May 24, 2015, 8:31 AM EDT
The Ivorian international will say farewell to Stamford Bridge for the second time in his career looking to extend his career elsewhere.
May 24, 2015, 8:03 AM EDT
The Colombian striker will not be back at Old Trafford next season as Louis van Gaal will not trigger the buy option on his expensive loan from Monaco. However, he could look to stay in the Premier League next year.
May 24, 2015, 7:33 AM EDT
The US international has become a Premier League regular and it looks to stay that way for the next three years.
May 24, 2015, 12:29 AM EDT
In case you’d forgotten since last Saturday night, none of us know anything about MLS.
May 24, 2015, 12:10 AM EDT
To grind out a point in Sporting KC’s current predicament is impressive, but the Sounders were very, very poor.
May 23, 2015, 10:06 PM EDT
Last-place beats 1st-place — in other words, just another typical night in MLS!
- VIDEO: Theo Walcott’s first-half hat trick will live in Boaz Myhill’s dreams 0
- Watch Live: Hull City vs. Manchester United (Lineups and Live Stream) 0
- WATCH: Premier League online via NBC Sports Live Extra – Championship Sunday 0
- Geoff Cameron inks new three-year contract at Stoke City 2
- MLS roundup: Last-place beats 1st-place; Toronto FC top Timbers; Revs, D.C. split points 0
- Premier League Sunday preview: One last time, with feeling (and drama… and dread) 0