The Crew were a horrible team last season finishing with one of the worst records in the league (Major League Soccer). The organization replaced the coach mid-season and moved the assistant coach up to interim head coach. Soon after the season ended, the head office hired Sigi Schmidt to take charge as head coach. Sigi's arrival has been met with mostly positive praise and enthusiasm. Some players from the old regime were either traded or waived to make room for some developing players and some existing MLS players.
The game this Saturday should mark the return of goalkeeper Jon Busch to the lineup after a season ending injury last season. Backing up Busch is veteran and quality goalkeeper Johnny Walker and developmental player Bill Gaudette.
In front of Busch will be returning starters Chad Marshall and Frankie Hejduk and host of newcomers like Marcos Gonzalez, Rusty Pierce (MLS veteran), Tim Ward and Joel Kitamirike. Defenders Robin Fraser and the often-injured Stephen Herdsman retired.
The Columbus midfield and forward were probably the areas in most need of work from the 2005 season. Gone are defensive midfielder Simon Elliot, left siders David Testo and Chris Wingert, the aging but still potent Chris Henderson, the off-and-on Mario Rodriguez, and contributing forwards Cornell Glen and Edson Buddle. Returning are Kyle Martino (this might be a make or break season for him), promising young talents Eric Vasquez and Danny Szetela, and forwards Knox Cameron and John Wolyniec. Midfield improvements came in the form of Ritchie Kotschau, senior international Sebastian Rozental then promising youngster and MLS experienced Eddie Gaven (traded for Buddle). Two draft picks fill out the forward spots.
A couple of question marks for the team are the returning utility player Duncan Oughton (still injured and questionable) and Pickerington (central Ohio) native and ex-Crew player Chris Leitch.
There will be a new coach, new starting eleven, and hopefully a new (and championship centered) attitude. Hopefully this will bring some much needed wins to the Columbus soccer team that seems to be stuck in “average” throughout their existence. I have to realize, however, that we are relatively young in some places and there might not be results for the first couple of matches. Most every other team in the league has improved as well (a few seem to have made questionable lineups).
The feeling the in locker room seems to be (and was stated by Jon Busch as) championship, not rebuilding. I can live with rebuilding. Sigi might be a good coach but he likely isn't a miracle worker.
Bring it on. Lets go Crew.