(* This project really needs a name – suggestions are 105% welcome. A five-minute brainstorm yielded “Project Crewpid,” but I think something better is possible.)
I scanned this great sketch of Alejandro Moreno (well…I liked it) and was prepared to post that over a report on the Columbus Crew’s opening day win over Toronto FC. Turns out I saved the scan as the wrong kind of file, I had too much shit to do yesterday, and there was that weird hangover that hurt my body less than my…my soul, I guess. So, yeah, the Crew won their opener on the back of goals by Adam Moffat and Alejandro Moreno. Moffat was most people’s man of the match, which is the point of the leading anecdote: I could draw a decent caricature of Moreno, but couldn’t swing Moffat – so, there you go, Moreno becomes my man of the match.
As for the game itself, it was a good enough win and I liked what I saw generally (though, admittedly, squinting through one eye by the end; where there’s a hangover in the morning, there was a drunk the night before – all y’all know how this works). And that’s the weird thing – and “the weird” extends to the commentary several of this week’s games: yeah, the Crew won their opener – which seems a rare event, even if may not be (I don’t know) – but keeping the clean sheet required no mean exertion from Will Hesmer. What I’m getting at, here, is that this was a nice win, but nothing more – so when I see something like where Goal.com placed the Crew in their power rankings, I wonder how I saw so much less than they did.
A similar kind of thinking applies to the Colorado Rapids public shaming of the Los Angeles Galaxy: if you think the Crew looks out of place at #4 in a power ranking poll, how does Colorado at #2 grab you (Goal.com’s caveat aside)? I posted my piece on Colorado’s win and would point to the penultimate paragraph as the font of my tepid mood. It’s not so much that neither team is that good as it’s: 1) worth considering the opposition in both cases – I know, for instance, LA was….fuck…ing…dire and Toronto didn’t blow me away; 2) given #1, that it’s possible we’re operating on too little information. I dunno. I’m just seeing a lot of enthusiasm for isolated results that strikes me as premature.
I’m not claiming to be immune, either; wait to see what I do with New England in the power rankings I post tomorrow.
Getting back to Columbus, though, I like the way they play – which is to say the intent behind the individual and collective actions of the players, I believe, lays the foundation for success. The rub here is a two-parter: first, the Crew’s players don’t always pull this off and, second, given this could involve personnel limitations, this may not immediately improve. That acknowledged, a couple impressive details stood out in Saturday’s performance: Moreno finished a one-on-one, a striker’s job to be certain, but how often do forwards muff it? Eddie Gaven played a nicely weighted ball to make the goal, a promising sign of that player’s ability to contribute decisively. And, of course, there’s Moffat; between scoring a goal and saving one – in this case, cleaning up the rebound on the PK Hesmer saved – what is that but a man of the match performance?
Between what I have to say about Columbus and what I have to say about Colorado, you have my sense of which team I believe plays the better game: Columbus. As noted in “my piece” on Colorado’s seemingly more impressive win, they still strike me as haphazard in their overall approach. But, in spite of missing the playoffs last season, I saw promising things in the 2007 Crew as well – which is to say I think Sigi Schmid is building a good platform for this team. So, bottom line, I rate Schmid a ways over Fernando Clavijo as a coach – and I think this will matter for the season.
Support for that argument in other quarters doesn’t so much prove my thinking on Columbus, but it’s reassuring to know others see what I’m seeing. To give an example, here’s what Steve Davis had to say about the Crew’s win in the Week 1 wrap he wrote for ESPN.com:
“Columbus always looked like the best team that couldn’t get results in 2007.”
Whether or not that’s true, results matter, which leaves Schmid in a precarious position as Davis points out above that quote. Vulnerable or not, I see a method to what he’s building; what’s more, I see just enough progress to argue for bearing with him. Schmid addressed this, if only indirectly, in comments to the Columbus Dispatch:
“‘It’s just like if you invest in the stock market,’ Schmid said. ‘If the three stocks you pick all take a nosedive, you’re a little hesitant when you make your fourth investment. If the three stocks you pick all go through the roof, you can take a chance on that fourth one and it maybe ends up working out for you as well.’
“‘It’s the same thing. As the team gets results, that confidence will grow. You have to remember still, Robbie Rogers is 20, Eddie Gaven is 21, Adam Moffat is 21, Chad Marshall is 23, Danny O’Rourke is 24, Brian Carroll is 26 or 27. That is a pretty good young nucleus there that just has to get the confidence and grow together.'”
Self-serving in a “look-I-know-what-I’m-doing”? Yep. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not right.
With one game in the books for each team, here’s where I am: the manner and margin of Colorado’s win impressed more people, but I see more to like in Columbus’ game. The theoretical foundation is there: it’s just a question of whether they have the horses to run the race. As for Colorado, I’d argue they bought the horses, but lack the theory…thanks to Fernando. Yeah, that could be bias – there’s no question I prefer Columbus – but, more fundamentally, this could be framed as buying wins versus building them. It’ll be interesting to see what wins in the end.