It wasn't too long ago when the Columbus Crew was considered one of the premier teams in MLS, a perennial title contender. A good bet to add to its 2008 MLS Cup.
Times have changed in Ohio, along with the roster. Guillermo Barros Schelotto has gone back to Argentina, Frankie Hejduk is back in California and several other key players were cast aside by a Crew front office eager to change up a team that had been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs the past two seasons.
Here is my Fox Soccer preview on a team that looks destined to struggle to recapture its championship form amid a host of new faces.
Here are some more thoughts on the Crew as Columbus heads into the 2011 season:
2011 COLUMBUS CREW
They'll win because: Jeff Cunningham recaptures his Golden Boot form and the Crew's rookie class produces an impact player or two.
They'll lose because: Cunningham posts one of his down years and Columbus fails to find a replacement for Guillermo Barros Schelotto's playmaking and leadership.
Player who could break out: Dilly Duka
Player who could regress: Andy Iro
Player who needs to improve on 2010: Robbie Rogers
Newcomer to watch: Rich Balchan
Projected Finish: Columbus still has enough talent to compete in the weak Eastern Conference, but at best the Crew could push for third or fourth place in the Eastern Conference and a playoff spot in the 8-10 range. At worst, the Crew could wind up missing the playoffs altogether.
Think the Crew has enough left to be a threat in the East? Agree that Columbus is destined for a down year? Still wondering why Columbus got rid of so many starters?
Share your thoughts below.