Red Bull 2-0 Crew: Water the Field, Men…Skinning Cats

Tough loss for the Columbus Crew, though not so much because it wasn’t deserved. I’d only argue Red Bull New York isn’t that much better in the attack. Let’s just say they ought to keep watering that field before every home game. That’s not the same as saying they were lucky – I credit them the win, no question – but that Columbus made about one quarter of the luck they needed.

Again, I’m going to assume all of you are like Dear President Bush and would prefer your summaries/analyses short and bulleted. Here goes:

Columbus Overall: The bitch here is, these guys know what they’re doing. It’s the distance between knowing what you’re doing and being able to that scuttles the Crew. Again, I don’t think Schmid is the problem. They’re playing a good style – and I believe the results can come, given a correction* – but just lacking that little sumpin’ sumpin’.

Red Bull Overall: A solid performance, but not where generally expected: the defense impressed me most. Since I’m not going to go into Red Bull as much after the jump, may as well do it here: yeah, Oscar Echeverry had a good game, Juan Pablo Angel can make the telling pass up top like few others, etc.; the most impressive thing about Red Bull was their organization and the way they limited the chances to those of the half-or-less variety. In the big picture, Red Bull looks stronger than I expected.

Now, some details…with a Crew orientation. Continue reading

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Crew Swings Wildly, Dominates Salvadoran Champs

You can read about the Columbus Crew’s win over El Salvador’s Isidro Metapan, noting that new-man Nicolas Hernandez not only looked active and all right, but also scored the game’s lone goal; you’ll also read that the new-look back-line, anchored by Chad Marshall and Danny O’Rourke, held pretty well.  But you can’t really appreciate how lopsided this game was until you check the box score at the bottom of this one: the Crew fired 20 shots to Metapan’s 3.

And you tell yourself, good stuff….until you do some math: 1 goal on 20 shots.  Rut-roh.

I wish I had time to dwell on this a little more, but, because I’m pinned under life today, this will be a link-fest.  And it’s a great thing that Crew coverage looks pretty good this year, so there’s plenty to pass on:

Columbus Dispatch (main paper, with all its dryness)
Covering the Crew (Columbus Dispatch blog; elbows are a little sharper on play and attendance)
An American Game (I like the vibe I’m getting from this guy)

According to the Crew’s official site, Columbus closed pre-season 6-4-0 – though I’m pretty sure they omitted a warm-up or three against college teams.  Not great, but, in MLS, that’s playoff bound ain’t it?

Before I, or anyone else, gets too cocky, I feel compelled to point out that Soccer By Ives included the Crew in a post on what teams aren’t ready for the regular season.  Another point – perhaps only somewhat related – bears noting: Toronto FC, the Crew’s opening day opponent, got on the wrong end of a public dumping by their head coach.  What am I getting at?  Even a three-legged bear can be dangerous when cornered – in other words, don’t all y’all go napping on opening day just because TFC looked like crap in pre-season.

Though it also bears mentioning that TFC made Soccer By Ives’ sorry short-list as well….and with considerably more justification…

Crew Preview: How, And How Well, They’ll Defend

For all the frustrations of the past season – missing the playoffs again, struggling offensively at the wrong time, etc. – I thought the Columbus Crew fielded a pretty solid defense in 2007. It turns out, however, the 44 goals they surrendered tied them for sixth in goals-against; middle of the pack sounds all right, until one considers 49 goals allowed set the mark for league-worst (Go Toronto FC!). So…remind me again, what exactly went right last season?

I kid. Middle of the pack is middle of the pack, so things could have gone worse. But with the Crew opening 2008 with one high-profile departure from the defense, the possibility things could go worse this year lurks. Marcos Gonzalez, rated by a solid majority as the Crew’s best defender, returned in the off-season to his native Chile. His immediate replacement – Andy Iro – is a first-year pro, something to watch no matter how his resumé reads. A clutch of second-year pros – Ryan Junge, Jed Zayner, and Andrew Peterson – will vie with Iro for that opening in central defense, as might midfield players like Danny O’Rourke, if some reports are to be believed (can’t find said reports; you’ll have to take my word for it…or just not believe me).

Given all that, how will the Crew’s defense fare in 2008? By way of an answer, I’ve named the players on the roster whose first job amounts to either defending the Crew’s goal directly or breaking up the opposition’s forays in midfield. I confess I’m not totally up-to-date on how Sigi Schmid will line up his team – and that’s whether in terms of formation or personnel – as such, what unfolds below amounts to a best guess as to what Schmid will do and the quality he has at his disposal. Continue reading

SuperDraft Scouting: The Columbus Crew’s Many Moving Parts

This is the second of today’s pre-SuperDraft posts on the two Major League Soccer (MLS) teams I adopted for the 2008 season: I’ll cover the Crew’s drafty-day prospects in this post; the Colorado Rapid’s appears below. Consider this a stab at figuring what each team can or should do ahead of and/or during Friday’s SuperDraft.

MLSnet.com hasn’t yet updated the order on the SuperDraft to reflect the latest (at least not that I know of), but the press release/article they sent out Monday showed Columbus with picks #6, 20, and 48. Something posted on the Crew’s official site confirms I’m not crazy. They could get great value from that #6 pick and could come up with something for #20 as well. #48…well, it ain’t nothing. So, let the record show the Crew have options. On top of that, they have a fair amount of other activity in the hopper, a detail that complicates figuring out what they want out of the draft.

For all that, I think Steve Davis is on to something with his casual mention that the Crew are thinking defenders first (it’s a needle-in-a-haystack, but it’s in there). Based on reports from other, non-SuperDraft-related sources, they’re looking abroad for attacking talent. This makes sense to a fair degree: not to knock defenders or their art (and it is an art, something you’d know if you’ve seen me defend), but you can take a college-quality midfielder and teach him to defend; happens all the time in MLS – and you get a defender who can pass out of the deal. Add to that Buzz Carrick’s high opinion of the pool of defenders and it appears the Crew have a great shot at filling this specific need. They might even do it twice over.

But Davis’ quick comment is just one view on what the Crew need. Again, I’ll turn to Jeff Carlisle’s ESPN piece on each MLS teams’ needs and my review of Columbus’ 2007. And, again, let’s start with Carlisle: Continue reading

The Crew’s Moving Pieces + Schelotto

Full credit to Ives Galarcep on both of these…oh, god, I’m such a parasite…right, back to it. Contrary to what I did with the title, let’s go “significant” then “interesting.”

Schelotto appears set to stay put; or, rather, paperwork in transit (the P-1 Visa) points to Schelotto sticking with the Crew through 2008. Then again, that could be called a non-confirmation confirmation: Ives’ source, Crew coach Sigi Schmid, only says Schelotto has “enjoyed his time” in Columbus and that he “hasn’t hasn’t expressed to us that it is what he wants to do” – e.g. he hasn’t said he wants to return to Argentina. I’m just saying marriages have ended in similar circumstances (e.g. “she never told me she wanted to leave.”) So, stay tuned on that, I suppose.

UPDATE: Confirmations that Schelotto will stay in Columbus continue to roll in.  The latest from Ives – via Crew Pres. Mark McCullers – reads a bit more firm and direct than what the reporter got out of Schmid.

The second piece seems more solid and, in some ways, more interesting. Ives (again) also got Schmid to talk about Danny O’Rourke’s future with the Crew, a future that should see him shift to the defensive line to make room for DCU-transfer Brian Carroll in midfield. In related news, it looks like both Chad Marshall and Marcos Gonzalez will return for the Crew. While the latter seems all good, the former – Marshall – strikes me as a complicated case. Ives cites the concussions – a big deal for a defender, obviously – but I get why the Crew is willing to let Marshall chance it: if I’m not mistaken – and I could very well be – Marshall’s brief return in 2007 coincided with the Crew’s best stretch of the season. That said, don’t you go bruisin’ yer brain for the fans, son. They’ll do fine without you.

UPDATE: Crap. I totally forgot to discuss the meat of this move: O’Rourke in defense. Along with Schmid, I see O’Rourke’s essentially combativeness as his greatest asset; that the man looks like an ultimate fighter hardly hurts his cause. And he’s definitely an upgrade to Ezra Hendrickson, who is getting on in years, and, assuming he’s still with the team (yep), Rusty Pierce, who doesn’t seem the player he was in New England. The Crew has a lot of midfield – they had even more before Ned Grabavoy left for San Jose – so moving a guy who plays like a defender to make room for someone with a little more offensive upside makes quite a bit of sense.