2015 MLS Team Preview: Columbus Crew


Columbus Crew SC took both the roles of a surprise playoff team and most disappointing performance in the playoffs. Sporting director and head coach Gregg Berhalter’s debut year went much better than anticipated, although many Crew fans were left with a bitter taste in their mouth following the blowout loss to the New England Revolution.

After putting together a solid 14-10-10 record, Berhalter began to gather the pieces the struggling squad needed to take that final step. It started by signing former Sporting KC forward Kei Kamara. As evidenced by the 2014 season, a striker by committee is not a viable solution for this team.

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While rookie Adam Bedell and Dayton Dutch Lion star Aaron Schoenfeld showed hints of potential, they failed to produce at the level required. Many of the points had to come from the midfield, namely Federico Higuain and Justin Meram. Both men now have a seasoned forward that will stretch the defense and create scoring opportunities.

Berhalter strengthened the defense that started to fall apart after Costa Rican international Giancarlo Gonzalez was sold early in the season. In the waning weeks of the season Austrian International Emmanuel “Mad Dog” Pogatetz was signed to potentially start opposite Captain Michael Parkhurst.

With the departure of long time Crew defenders Eric Gehrig and Josh Williams, a need for a full back was still evident. Draft magic happened and the Crew traded with the Colorado Rapids to acquire Chris Klute. This now means Columbus has two starting caliber fullbacks, rather than having a midfielder play the role like Hector Jimenez and Bernardo Anor did last season.

Therein lies the big question facing this 2015 Crew squad. Goalkeeper Steve Clark is one of the best in the league, despite making his MLS debut last season. However, the defense can’t be nearly as porous if a deep playoff run is expected. Pogatetz is a weekly red card concern because, let’s be frank, you don’t earn the nickname “Mad Dog” by playing nice. Other than the starting four, none of the defenders on the roster look like solutions.

The defense is lucky in the fact that currently Crew SC have two great defensive midfielders in Tony Tchani and Will Trapp. Both men should help keep the center backs from having to chase every long ball kicked into the Crew’s attacking half. On the flip side if the defense is faltering and Trapp and Tchani can’t move forward, then the Crew attack stalls like it did so much last year.

It will come down to Klute and Waylon Francis to push the ball up the wings and pressure opposing teams into stopping the cross rather than allowing them control over time of possession. Klute and Pogatetz are going to be the biggest x-factors for this squad and will likely determine the overall progress of the team.

Columbus should have another solid year under Berhalter. While the pickups this offseason were solid, I just don’t see it getting them to the MLS cup. I do forsee a deep post-season push, the fact that the defensive half of the ball will be working out issues in synergy will slow them down. Best case I see them as a dark horse to the MLS cup, worst case I see them having a losing season and Berhalter having to answer a lot of questions about every selection.

Next: 2015 MLS Team Preview: DC United