PHOENIX — As training convenes in Phoenix for the Columbus Crew, there are plenty of unanswered questions.
Most of the questions surround the team's roster, which has undergone a major overhaul, making it easy to wonder just who are all of these guys. There's a core group of players that have remained, holdovers from the 2008 MLS Cup championship season — Wil Hesmer, Chad Marshall, Eddie Gaven, Robbie Rogers and Danny O'Rourke. But it seems clear that a lot of new faces will have to step forward and contribute for the Crew to make a fourth straight trip to the MLS playoffs.
Add to all of that the fact that coach Robert Waryzycha has less than a month to get his team ready for the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals against Real Salt Lake.
Here's a closer look at the Crew's pre-season in Arizona:
Length of stay: Jan. 29-Feb. 18 at Reach 11 complex, Phoenix.
Training game/scrimmage schedule: Feb. 5 vs. Sporting KC, Feb. 8 vs. Vancouver, Feb. 10 vs. Seattle, Feb. 14 vs. Colorado, Feb. 17 vs. Houston.
Key Arrivals: D Sebastian Miranda, F Justin Meram, F Tom Heinemann
Key Departures: F Guillermo Barros Schelotto, D Eric Brunner, D Frankie Hejduk, F Steven Lenhart, M Brian Carroll.
What to watch for: Heinemann, a young prospect who was one of USSF-2's better scorers, is recovering from minor knee surgery and has yet to train. Will Jeff Cunningham, one of the greatest scorers in MLS history and a player interested in signing with the Crew, fit into the Crew's plans? The new-look Crew have many questions to answer in terms of finalizing its roster, and perhaps the biggest hole to fill is the one left by the departed Schelotto.
Of note: Nine players are gone from last year's team…Marshall, a central defender, is now the longest-tenured Crew player, going into his eighth season. Marshall is coming off offseason arthroscopic knee surgery.