A New Columbus Crew For 2014

Berhalter, Parkhurst highlight new faces to lead Black and Gold
by Al DiFranco   |   Monday, March 03, 2014

Labor Strike – column on Columbus Crew & the Columbus, Ohio soccer scene.

After a disappointing 2013 campaign, Columbus Crew fans knew change was on the horizon. Owner Anthony Precourt, who acquired the club toward the end of last season, did not disappoint those calling for wholesale changes.

How about a new coach in Gregg Berhalter? A new goalkeeper in Steve Clark, replacing Andy Gruenebaum? Three new starters on the backline, including USMNT centerback Michael Parkhurst replacing longtime Crew leader Chad Marshall?

Yeah, that all happened in 1 offseason. This isn’t your father’s Columbus Crew.

So what does this all mean for the 2014 season?

Early season struggles

Columbus will likely have a new leftback (Waylon Francis) and new centerbacks (Parkhurst and Giancarlo Gonzalez) to go along with returning RB Josh Williams on the backline. All this with Clark as the new netminder. While the Crew return some firepower up front, the defense is bound to have some communication and positioning challenges.

The Crew doesn’t have too rough of a spring schedule, however. A pair of its first 6 matches are against D.C. United, 1 in Columbus and 1 in DC, road matches against Seattle and San Jose, and home matches against Philadelphia, Toronto and New York make up the schedule through March and April.

Look for a few high scoring affairs early on for the Black and Gold.

A second half surge

Berhalter will make sure the defense gets things together by the time the heat of the summer hits Columbus, and that’s where this club could really take off. Dominic Oduro, Federico Higuain and Bernardo Anor make up a talented and attacking midfield in what should be an entertaining 4-2-3-1 lineup.

The big question mark will again be up front. Can Jairo Arrieta rebound from a disappointing 2013 campaign? If not, the Crew will need to look for help on the transfer wire or put its faith in youngster Ryan Finley, who showed flashes in his rookie season last year in limited action.

Narrowly missing the playoffs

MLS’ Eastern Conference is a difficult division in the American league. The defending champion Sporting KC looks as strong as ever. Houston will be hungry to get back to the top. Red Bulls have as much talent as anyone, and they’ll be looking to defend their Supporters’ Shield. New England and Chicago are on the upswing after big offseason moves. You get the idea.

It won’t be easy for the Crew to crack the top 5, especially if we see defensive struggles early on. But Crew fans will be much more entertained by this squad. The Crew are one reliable striker away from being a title contender.

NEXT UP: March 8 – Columbus Crew vs. D.C. United, RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C. 7 p.m. EST, MLS Live.

Al DIFRANCO

Nationality:
USA
College:
Ohio State
Club Domestic:
Columbus Crew
Club Foreign:
AC Milan, Everton
Passionate fan of the USMNT, Al is a member of the Cleveland Chapter of the American Outlaws. He also loves to follow and discuss Premier League and Serie A. Named his daughter Mia after a certain soccer legend.
AL'S SPONSORS