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MLS- Columbus Crew

MLS State of the Team: Columbus Crew

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After a ninth-place finish in the Eastern Conference last year, the Columbus Crew were clearly in need of some roster movement this off-season.

Surprisingly, the first change was trading away center back captain Michael Parkhurst. Whats worse? Soon after that trade, news became official that their experienced center back, Gaston Sauro, would miss all of 2017 for knee surgeries. More surprises include declining the option to re-sign starting goalkeeper Steve Clark, and extending the contract of poor-performing DP Federico Higuain.

Since those concerning roster updates in December, though, the new starting 11 has started to take shape. It remains unknown just how quickly the team will come together in 2017, but the newfound strength of several Eastern Conference opponents will surely worry Crew supporters.

Here is a closer look at what’s been done and what’s left to be done heading into the new year:

WHO’S IN

Jonathan Mensah, Alex Crognale, Jukka Raitala, Josh Williams

WHO’S OUT

Michael Parkhurst, Gaston Sauro (will miss 2017 due to injury), Mohammed Saeid, Tyson Wahl, Conor Casey, Steve Clark, Matt Pacifici, Corey Ashe, Cedrick Mabwati, Chad Barson

DRAFT

1st Round: No. 5 overall, No. 9 overall (Columbus will receive New England’s highest pick determined 24 prior to the SuperDraft as part of the Kei Kamara trade)

3rd Round: No. 49 overall

4th Round: No. 71 overall

REMAINING NEEDS

Gregg Berhalter and his staff had their work cut out for them to rebuild the back line. They were able to handle the task quickly, though, with the addition of two internationals, a Homegrown signing and an MLS veteran.

Depth is desparately needed on the wings to provide cover for Justin Meram and Ethan Finlay. The other obvious spot in need of depth is goalkeeper. At this point, it seems that Berhalter is putting his trust in young goalie Zack Steffen, but the only other keeper on the roster is currently Brad Stuver.

The Crew are currently heavily linked with former U.S. youth national team midfielder Junior Flores, a creative central midfielder who would be in line to compete for playing time as the team’s playmaker.

OUTLOOK

Its hard to see any of last season’s Eastern Conference playoff teams dropping off in quality next year, and in fact the other clubs at the bottom of the table have been bolstering their squad this winter. As a result, there is no easy path back to MLS Cup for the Crew in 2017.

This could prove to be the second year in a rebuilding process for Berhalter’s team, as young players and MLS newcomers begin to fully integrate into the existing squad.

A run at the post-season is not out of the question, though. Ola Kamara proved how dynamic he could be in the second half of last year, and there’s no reason he can’t improve upon that in his second season. If Higuain can return to form, or Flores comes in and flourishes, the Crew could replicate the attacking success they achieved in 2015.

3 comments
  • SilverRey

    Happy to see GB taking care of the back line.

    I still want to see a back-up for wings (the obligatory ‘played-in the-dutch-leagues-big-hope-for-diamond-in-the-rough’ winger that we’ll dump in the summer transfer window).

    And of course a new keeper. Stuver/Steffan are both players I want on the team, but it’d be good to get a veteran keeper on the roster to, at the very least, push these guys and train with them.

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  • Frank

    Can’t say I’m sad to see Steve Clark gone. I’ve never been impressed with his play. It will be interesting to see if Berhalter will give Steffen a chance.

    Defensively, we have finally added some height to the team. Speaking of height, I’m also curious to see what Jahn can do up top.

    Biggest need in my mind, his getting the playmaker role figured out–without Higuain, the team struggled quite a bit and it will be interesting to see if he can stay injury free.

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    • SilverRey

      Dilly Duka is next in line to get the keys to the car, but even in his second time around I’m not sure he’s shown that he can be the one to take over. Potential, but no consistency.

      Junior Flores is someone I’m excited to have on the team, and GB has mentioned he’ll be playing in the middle. Here’s hoping he comes bursting out of the gates and takes the reigns.

      I haven’t seen enough of Martinez or Saravia to know if they can handle the middle – which is probably not a good sign.

      …which means Ben Swanson is the true heir apparent.

      Like

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