Skip to content

Major League Soccer team previews: COLUMBUS CREW

Feb 23, 2013, 2:45 PM EST

Crew logo

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.source: Getty Images

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.

(MORE: the entire roster of ProSoccerTalk’s Major League Soccer previews and predictions)

Latest Posts
  1. PHOTOS: 2015 MLS jerseys have been unveiled — Which is the best? Worst?

    Mar 5, 2015, 10:22 PM EST

    MLS logo MLS logo

    Because who doesn’t love to critique and compare every team’s new jerseys?

  2. WATCH: Mohamed Salah’s 60-yard dribble and wondergoal; Juventus 1-2 Fiorentina

    Mar 5, 2015, 8:53 PM EST

    Mohamed Salah, ACF Fiorentina Mohamed Salah, ACF Fiorentina

    The dribble was a thing of beauty, but he still had to apply the finish. Not a problem for Salah.

  3. Now that it’s happening, MLS’s 20th season is sure to be the best one yet

    Mar 5, 2015, 8:15 PM EST

    Kaka, Orlando City SC Kaka, Orlando City SC

    The season is officially on. Here’s a few reasons to get excited, in case you’re not already. (You should be.)

  4. 2015 MLS season preview: Real Salt Lake

    Mar 5, 2015, 7:00 PM EST

    Real Salt Lake logo

    Jeff Cassar impressed in year one, but can he rebuild RSL and make them his own in year two?

  5. 2015 MLS season preview: LA Galaxy

    Mar 5, 2015, 5:00 PM EST

    LA Galaxy logo

    Bruce’s boys are back, and once again, rebuilt. This changes little for a team with more championship aspirations.

  6. 2015 MLS season preview: Portland Timbers

    Mar 5, 2015, 4:00 PM EST

    Portland Timbers logo

    Caleb Porter’s final foray in the Rose City? He’ll need the playoffs this year, otherwise…

  7. 2015 MLS season preview: Seattle Sounders

    Mar 5, 2015, 3:19 PM EST

    Seattle Sounders logo

    After winning two of three titles last season, can the Sounders finally clinch that pesky MLS Cup?

  8. PST predicts Major League Soccer’s 2015 standings; Do you agree?

    Mar 5, 2015, 2:45 PM EST

    Kreis and Reyna have painstakingly put the inaugural NYCFC squad together. AP

    From expansion team finishing first to making the playoffs to finishing in last, our writers have varied opinions on how MLS will unfold in 2015.

  9. Premier League Playback: With 10 games to go, here’s how things stand

    Mar 5, 2015, 2:08 PM EST

    PST’s Editor and Lead Writer looks back at the midweek madness, and assesses where we are at with 10 games to go.

  10. 2015 MLS season preview: New England Revolution

    Mar 5, 2015, 1:20 PM EST

    New England logo

    Can the Revs build on a fantastic 2014? Heaps hopes so…

  11. Men In Blazers podcast: Ginormous preview of 2015 MLS season with Alexi Lalas

    Mar 5, 2015, 12:50 PM EST

    meninblazers

    In the latest MiB pod, Alexi Lalas stops by to preview the 2015 MLS season.

  12. MLS Commissioner Don Garber talks new CBA deal; hails players’ role in progress

    Mar 5, 2015, 12:20 PM EST

    MLS ALL-STAR GAME COMING BACK TO DENVER Getty Images

    Here’s what the MLS commish had to say about the new CBA, as months of negotiating finally paid off on Wednesday.

  13. Top 10 breakout players in Major League Soccer for 2015

    Mar 5, 2015, 11:40 AM EST

    Portland Timbers v Real Salt Lake Getty Images

    Who will bounce back or come from nowhere to shine in 2015? Here’s a speculative look.

  14. 2015 MLS season preview: New York Red Bulls

    Mar 5, 2015, 9:30 AM EST

    500px-New_York_Red_Bulls_logo

    How will the Red Bulls get on as Marsch ushers in a new era?

  15. Who, if anybody, won the CBA negotiations in MLS: The players or the league?

    Mar 5, 2015, 8:47 AM EST

    2013 MLS SuperDraft Presented By Adidas Getty Images

    Should the league or the players feel happier on the eve of the 2015 season after a new CBA was agreed?

  16. Winston Reid signs new long-term deal at West Ham United

    Mar 5, 2015, 8:07 AM EST

    West Ham United v Swansea City - Premier League Getty Images

    Reid is going nowhere, as New Zealand international signs new deal at Upton Park.

  17. VIDEO: QPR’s Chris Ramsey “genuinely sick” after loss to Arsenal

    Mar 4, 2015, 10:51 PM EST

    Queens Park Rangers v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Charlie Austin played well, and the club truly appeared unlucky not to find an equalizer in the 2-1 loss. They were a step off all night.