Crew Stocking Up; Balance Shifting?

In a case of life imitating art (or whatever the hell it is I do ’round here), the Colorado Rapids and Columbus Crew waited for their luggage side-by-side at same airport a week or so ago. My apologies for missing this significant event last week. It’s like God is telling them that somewhere, someone is forcing a comparison between their teams…the question is, who will respond?

Let’s just say it’s possible that the Crew’s recent ambition changes what I wrote just nine days ago. Reports of players coming on board and the roster taking shape emanate from Central Ohio and the keyboard of the Columbus Dispatch’s Shawn Mitchell. A blog post on the various incarnations of the Crew slapping around Ohio Dominican not only talks about who looked good (Andy Moffat, Brian Carroll, Chad Marshall, Alejandro Moreno – especially the latter, albeit against weaker opposition), but also reports Gino Padula and Emanuel Ekpo should be “in the fold this week” and that their also working on signing Guilherme So. A piece in the main pages of the Columbus Dispatch on Nicolas Hernandez’s enthusiasm for playing with Boca Juniors legend Guillermo Barros Schelotto also speaks to the club’s ongoing ambition to sign another forward…possibly at Hernandez’s expense.

Signs of life from returning players, evidenced by Eddie Gaven’s composed, late, and winning penalty kick against Honduras in Olympic qualifying adds encouraging touches to a picture not looking so ugly as it did a couple weeks back (I’m thinking I was a little hard on Eddie Saturday, because he did show some flashes of hunger and talent; again, I’m like the parent who knows and voices no satisfaction).

At 6-4-0 (W-L-T), the pre-season record isn’t all that inspiring, especially when you look at games against opposition stronger than Old Dominican (whoops, there’s also that Ventura Co. Fusion loss). But Columbus’ willingness to address problems through new signings and hints of return to form from key players all over the field may yet augur well for their run at an, admittedly, tougher Eastern Conference.

Returning to my 2008 project – e.g. comparing the fates of Columbus and Colorado – the latest Crew news (as well as what I’m reading out of Colorado) introduces a couple fresh dynamics to the situation. For starters, assuming Columbus can haul in the players they think they have (e.g. Ekpo, So, Padula), I’m willing to believe, if only tentatively, they have the better team; and I write that absent direct observation, so it’s a fragile thing; add that high-end striker and I’ll have little doubt. That’s just another way of saying I believe the Crew started from a stronger position. But a secondary factor looms large: given my impression the East will prove tougher, has the Crew done enough?

I don’t think we’ll know that one till several weeks into the season. But, for now, I’m giving the edge to the Crew.

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