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 v. Rapids*: Comparison After Week 1 (Plus, thoughts on the Crew’s win and word of a signing)

(* 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. Continue reading

The Crew Attack: Columbus’ Hopes and Options

With the Columbus Crew’s defense preview out of the way, it’s time to turn to the Crew’s offense. Before going any farther, let me just acknowledge one thing: offense and defense don’t separate perfectly in soccer; anyone who has seen Frankie Hejduk blaze down the right side to fire in crosses (of whatever quality) knows this. That said, the discussion below focuses on players for whom offense is the primary responsibility.

Before looking forward, however, let me take a second (or a paragraph) to look back – though, given 2007, I don’t expect Crew fans to feel enthusiasm for joining me. Until the arrival of Guillermo Barros Schelotto, the Crew struggled with scoring – and things didn’t so much turn around as improve thereafter. The 2007 Crew would never be mistaken for an offensive power. Most observers point to the absence of a quality forward and, for what it’s worth, I agree with most people. The Crew tried to address this problem in the off-season, but they have so far failed to find their man (thanks for the freakin’ memories, Maciej Zurawski).

Even if they missed out on a high(er)-profile acquisition, the Crew has done some restocking with players on trial like Nigeria’s Emanuel Ekpo and Brazilian Guilherme So; neither player has formally signed with the club, but both were in the works last I read with Ekpo being the closer. There’s also Nicolas Hernandez’s arrival to consider with the question of whether this is “Nico Mark’06” or Nico Mark’07” preceding him. Talk of a couple forwards shipping to Columbus from the Honduran league (Brazilian Jocimar Nascimento and…some other dude) means more reinforcements may yet show.

However all those pan out, what we can all count on is the return of some players, plus signs of promising development for them. The Crew appears as ready as they’re going to get for the 2008 season. The question is whether it’s enough. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

(What Passes for) Columbus Crew News

On the soccer front, this is one slow friggin’ week in Columbus Crew news.  The only thing going seems to be Eddie Gaven’s “superb ball” or “excellent serve” to Josmer Altidore, which set up the penalty kick in the “Mini-Yanquis” win over Panama.  Good to see the kid do something positive.  (Now shave.  Wait.  Don’t.  You’re probably sick of getting pulled over by cops for driving underage.  But, dude, your beard looks worse than mine.)  After that, it’s all rumors of coming players, pissed-off fans, and ’08 season previews.  Oh, there’s also the front office, non-soccer bullshit that MLSnet.com official sites enjoy posting.

Taking them in turn…

Soccer Insider reported that the Crew are taking an interest in Flavor-of-the-mon…, er, Argentine d/m (that’s defender/midfielder, not dungeon master) Matias Almeyda.  My first question is how an Argie ended up in Norway.  Less mysterious, after a moment’s thought, anyway, is why the Crew would go after a defender/midfielder given their more desperate need at forward: in a name, Marcos Gonzalez and, in a (conjugated) verb, gone.  WVHooligan gives a bit of history on the player, while a (new-to-me) site, Crewture, digs around what could motivate Almeyda to head to Columbus….and, for what it’s worth, he seems simultaneously skeptical and hopeful about the potential move.  Put me down as skeptical as well…moving on…

– Maybe Guillermo Barros Schelotto hepped him to life in Columbus.  Then again, maybe not…and the locals are pissed.  Really pissed.  For what it’s worth, fans – e.g. people madly in love with their team – get kind of weird about players.  Well, they can’t all be Duncan Oughton, I guess.  It’s worth remembering real people wear your club’s jersey  and, face it, real people are fickle, weird, and neurotic animals; they can screw up, wind up unhappy on the job, etc., just like anyone else.  Another part of it is the automatic – dare I say robotic? – adulation players give, and are expected to give, to the fans.  I guess what I’m getting at is, I’d pay less attention to what a player says – which, judging by the repetition of some particular inanities are pure pre-programmed bullshit 80% of the time – than what they do on the field.  If Schelotto dreams of Argentina every time he passes the ball, I can live with it; just so long as he passes the ball well and to the guys in yellow (or black).

– It’s preview season and I saw my first one for the Crew: WVHooligan’s.  I’ll turn in one of my own before the season starts – I anticipate an exhaustively, even stupidly, thorough affair – but recommend that one (and, thank the maker, that’ll be the only one this year; I’m doing conference previews only).  I’ll flag other ones as I see them.

– Finally, the corporate garbage…nah, I’m not going to post it.  I can’t see the point unless I’m going to mock it.

TSII: Crew Roster Talk – When Do You Stop?

Back from the little hiatus, time to get right back to it: Covering the Crew posted the latest full roster for the 2008-vintage Columbus Crew. You can check the post for names, details, plus more. I’ll steal his roster layout to frame the discussion, but I won’t borrow the commentary…that’ll come after the stuff I stole. Here goes:

Senior roster (17 of 18 slots filled)
Goalkeepers: Will Hesmer, Andy Gruenebaum.
Defenders: Frankie Hejduk, Chad Marshall, Danny O’Rourke, Ezra Hendrickson, Leonard Griffin, Andy Iro.
Midfielders: Brian Carroll, Duncan Oughton, Stefani Miglioranzi, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Eddie Gaven.
Forwards: Alejandro Moreno, Nicolas Hernandez, Jason Garey, Brad Evans.

Developmental roster (10 of 10)
Goalkeeper: Kenny Schoeni.
Defenders: Andrew Peterson, Jed Zayner, Ryan Junge, Ryan Miller.
Midfielders: Robbie Rogers, Adam Moffat, Kevin Burns.
Forwards: Steven Lenhart, George Josten.

OK, so who’s new here? And I don’t promise a complete list, necessarily, but a useful approximation. Continue reading

Crew TSII: Crew Coming Into Focus; Nifty Friendly (that sounds less nifty when you think about it)

(Just a quick FYI: I think I’ve got a good set-up in mind for the Rapids/Crew updates. Those will come early in the morning, the rest will follow. At least that’s the plan today. And, oh yes, I will miss breaking stories…that is all.)

It takes covering the Colorado Rapids to truly appreciate the true meaning of crap coverage. The comparative radio silence of Rapids-Land gives the several reports and updates from outlets official and private on the Columbus Crew a sense of things afoot. Good lord, it might even be a buzz.

Tucked in the middle of a weekly update focused on Eddie Gaven’s and Robbie Rogers’ call-up(s) to the U-23s, you’ll find the first and second half line-ups for the Crew’s embarra…I mean, loss to the Ventura County Fusion. You’ll see some familiar names from this pre-season in there – Emanuel Ekpo, Guilherme So, Sandro Jose, even Mamadu Bah – but it takes Covering the Crew’s latest post to get a bead on where these guys stand. To sum up – for those not interested in the expanded version: So and Ekpo look like they’ll sign – the latter, it seems, has really impressed; the team wants more time to evaluate Bah and talks with Sandro Jose remain stuck. It’s also worth pointing out that there’s talk of an imminent waiver in there as well: so long, Ricardo Virtuoso(?). Continue reading