Giving In: Crew v. Rapids, Early Impressions

For those unfamiliar with it, I have dedicated myself to follow and, to some degree, conflate the relatively separate fates of the Columbus Crew and the Colorado Rapids for the 2008 Major League Soccer (MLS) season. The idea is to see which of these long-struggling MLS original clubs make progress this season…and which falls still further behind as the league expands.

This post just came to me out of the blue (OK, I was on the can; does that make it “out of the brown?”), but I think there’s something to it. Back when I embraced this assignment, nearly two months ago, I liked Columbus’ chances better. The reasoning was pretty straightforward: Columbus, playing in the tougher East, had the look of a team that could be competitive with the addition of only a player or two (both forwards, preferably) and more time to gel. Against that, the Rapids had the look of a team in not only in need of a total overhaul on offense, but one with the impression of a toxic locker room (suffering, perhaps from sour relations between players and coach?).

With drafts Super and supplemental now come and gone, with some trades consummated and trials started and ended, I have to confess to thinking the opposite. While I’m not quite on the “Gomez-Will-Part-the-Seas” Wagon – which, for the record, I think is both small and filled with people ready to bolt at the first signs of trouble – the arrival of Christian Gomez has the potential for good things, even very good things. And it’s not just Gomez who has arrived: look at the Rapids roster and you’ll see Jose Burciaga Jr. and Chase Hilgenbrinck, two defenders that not only fatten what was a strong defense in 2007, but who bring some attacking qualities to the table. Admittedly, I can only say that confidently about Burciaga, but I’ve heard tell that Hilgenbrinck is no slouch going forward. Add another year for budding players like Jacob Peterson, Colin Clark, and (maybe) Mehdi Ballouchy and, in basic terms, you have that little bit more in the attack. Assuming the defense holds, that could very well push the Rapids into the competitive class.

Meanwhile, for all the excitement and intriguing trialists (Lars Ricken, Roman Friedli, Maciej Zurawski), the Crew landed a big, friggin’ donut hole in new, experienced players. That makes one think they’ll go as far as Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s aging legs will take them. The Crew’s roster shows he has a bevy of rookies in support – including brand-spanking new ones at forward in “Meet” George Josten and Pierre-Louis Ricardo – as well as some more experienced players – like Robbie Rogers and Eddie Gaven – who only need consistency to become big-time; for what it’s worth, Gaven’s history has me thinking Rogers is the more likely of the two to shine. On the other side of the field, there’s the apparent reliance on rookie Andy Iro to jump in and thrive in MLS; it’s not impossible, but expecting it is something else again. With the rest of the Eastern Conference upping the ante in personnel – and this applies especially the teams that matter, e.g. DC United, New England Revolution, and the Chicago Fire – Columbus seems very much at risk for falling behind.

Anyway, that’s just where I am today. As my little mental journey from early January to now reveals, something else could come down the pike – here, I’m thinking the Crew signing an impact forward, or the Rapids picking up a serious injury to the wrong player – to make me favor the Crew’s chances over the Rapids’. It should be a good project….now, if only the goddamn games would start…

BONUS
Time was tight, so I almost forgot to add any of these today.  But I’ve got one I couldn’t pass on.  I could be crazy, but I bet the proud owner of this collection….well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be surprised if bodies turned up in his basement…

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One Response

  1. Yea, I don’t think the CrewFaithful here in C-bus are holding our breath.

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