I find myself in a similar situation. Last year on this day I wrote about the premature Columbus Crew exit from the MLS playoffs Thursday to Real Salt Lake. This season the same thing has happened, just at the hands of the Colorado Rapids. So when I look back at that 2009 season post what has changed and what has stayed the same?
I still hate the MLS playoff system and feel it gives the advantage to the lesser record team because the lesser team is likely to use the home field advantage to get more goals in the first game then play a quote boring defensive system assuming the top seeded team must score win by one more goal than the deficit.
There were positive spots to the 2010 season. The Crew made it to the playoffs (falling to Colorado on a missed penalty kick), to the finals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (falling to Seattle), and are still in the CONCACAF Champions Cup/Champions League.
Sagging attendance would probably lead the negative points when the league and cup results are removed. The Crew did not find a replacement for Schelotto (that we know of). Some players that should have been relegated to the bench this season are still signed through next season.
I also think it still boils down to one word: inconsistency. First there was the inconsistent lineup due to injuries to key players like Rogers, O'Rourke, Hesmer and Renteria. Second, inconsistent performances from Rogers, Hejduk, Hesmer, Padula, and Schelotto in some ways. Forwards would be hot one game, go cold, go to the bench for another forward, that forward would be hot, etc. Third, inconsistent coaching. Robert Warzycha seemed to get out-coached near the end of the season (again) and many have questioned his line-up choices.
So (again) where does the Crew go from here?
Warzycha is not the immediate problem. If Kreis and Nowak can coach and get results then Warzycha can. The Crew organization as a whole is degrading before our eyes from the top down. The Crew need a shot in the arm from somewhere whether it be an exciting new player or some new feature of the team or something marketable.
I will probably get laughed at for this but I think we should find some way to get Jon Busch back as backup keeper. Jon is one of those franchise players you would like to always have on your team in some way shape or form. Bring him back to where he started. Gruenebaum would probably go.
In the defense we need to find a replacement for Hejduk in a starting role. Francis can start for Padula if we keep him. I am guessing Iro or Brunner will go to expansion leaving O'Rourke in the mix with Marshall.
Gaven and Carroll are the only midfield players I would keep. Moffat had sub-adequate performances (again, inconsistency). Ekpo and Burns are good players. Rogers is a huge question mark but I would love to see him get a solid season with Schelotto. Oughton and can be kept with the team as long as it is feasible to do so. Schelotto should be retained for one more season but the Crew need to find his replacement this season.
The forward spots need overhauled. Garey will likely go to expansion. Renteria should start and if Mendoza can put in a consistent performance like the one at the home playoff match then he should be in the mix as well. Lenhart is a bench player. We could still use a quality striker but I do not see us getting one, ever (pessimistic but realistic).
If I were asked to name the priorities for the 2011 season they would be: retain Schelotto for one more season as a player, acquire Schelotto's replacement so he can work alongside Guillermo and develop to lead the team. The next thing the Crew needs is a forward capable of playing with Schelotto (and his successor) and scoring a bucket load of goals. Warzycha should be retained as coach unless an obvious and adequate replacement is both available and feasible for the organization. Last, the Crew need a shot in the arm in the form of something exciting in the organization or a charismatic player to get some buzz generated about the team.