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…

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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

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

Crew TSII: Welcome, Niko (Can We Bundle in Lou Reed?)

In a move that puts my two worlds in dangerously close contact, it appears the Columbus Crew picked up M/F Nicolas “Nico” Hernandez from the Colorado Rapids.  Defender Tim Ward and a third round pick in the ’09 supplemental draft go the other way.

Weird deal.  This is good and bad for the Crew…or, actually, good and/or bad.  Or something like that.

Here’s what I’m thinking: If they landed the Nico Mark ’06, the Crew picked up a good, flexible option at forward and midfield.  If they landed Nico Mark ’07, they added another Eddie Gaven – e.g. an inconsistent player ever on the verge of breaking any game wide open…only to fail to do so.  Sometimes comically.  Speaking personally, though, I’ve always kind of liked Nico, so, for me, this works – at least if until, or if, he stinks up the joint.  To address the downside, what’s this say about the players the Crew have on trial?  Are Emanuel Ekpo and Guilherme So that underwhelming?  Or is Nico coming on board just more depth?  The roster tells me the Crew have room (I’m counting 23 players, 22 with Ward gone).

As for losing Ward (who cares about the pick?), it’s not quite a bad thing.  Ward seems a fair imitation of an up-and-comer.  At the same time, the Crew have some other options in defense, even some other up-and-comers (at least from what I’ve read) in Ryan Junge and Jed Zayner.

All told, I have to say I like this one trade for the Crew.  It’s worth the gamble at the very lest.

GREAT OUTDOORS
I love this: some guy posted a bunch of Garfield comics, but with only Garfield’s owner, Jon Arbuckle, in the story.  The result is surprisingly funny…provided you take a little pleasure in the man’s apparent suffering.  My favorite (so far) is the fourth one: “This is not my lucky hat!”