Fresh off the heels of a second consecutive Supporters' Shield, the pressure is on Columbus to stay at the top.
Nearly the entire established first XI from last year returns, with only Alejandro Moreno departing for Philadelphia via the expansion draft. The biggest move Columbus made in the offseason was re-signing former MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto, and the diminutive Argentine remains key to the Crew's 2010 aspirations.
Columbus has already showed what they are capable of in the CONCACAF Champions League, narrowly losing 5-4 on aggregate to Toluca in the quarterfinals. A deep and talented side, the Crew are poised for another successful season.
Here's a look at the 2010 Columbus Crew:
2010 COLUMBUS CREW
Players to Watch – Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Robbie Rogers, Emmanuel Ekpo, Chad Marshall
Key Arrivals – Dilly Duka, Sergio Herrera, Othaniel Yanez
Key Departures – Alejandro Moreno
Projected Lineup (New starters in bold)
—————————-Guillermo Barros Schelotto———-
Robbie Rogers——–Emmanuel Ekpo————Eddie Gaven
Gino Padula–Chad Marshall–Danny O'Rourke–Frankie Hejduk
Big Question – Can Schelotto stay healthy? The Argentine is the most important weapon in Columbus' attack, but at 36 years old (turning 37 in May), questions will abound about his health and stamina. Given the Crew's demanding schedule in 2010, with both the Champions League and Open Cup campaigns to deal with.
Schelotto and Robert Warzycha will work closely to monitor the attacker's minutes and ensure that he remains fits for the long haul. Columbus has the depth to cope without him, but they're a much better attacking team with Schelotto in the lineup.
X-Factor – Robbie Rogers and Emmanuel Ekpo both turn 23 this year. Each has at least a couple years of MLS experience under his belt. Both have shown flashes of extraordinary talent giving way to moments of frustration.
If either one can excel on a consistent basis, it would give Columbus a huge lift in the attacking half. Not only that, it could ease the pressure off Schelotto and allow the Crew to contend in multiple competitions this year.
Outlook – Columbus has done extremely well to keep together the core of the 2008 MLS Cup winning side. While it didn't work out in the playoffs last year, third consecutive Supporters' Shield is within reach. In what could be Schelotto's last season in Columbus, there's no question that he would want to go out on top.