Columbus Crew 2011
2011 Club by Club
New England Revolution
New York Red Bulls
Real Salt Lake
San Jose Earthquakes
Sporting Kansas City
For the Columbus Crew, the 2011 season started and ended with question marks, but the nature of the queries were very different.
After a seismic roster overhaul last winter, many wondered if the Crew could be competitive after the likes of the departed Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Frankie Hejduk led the team to an MLS Cup in 2008 and back-to-back Supporters’ Shields in ’08 and ’09.
Columbus answered the critics by leading the Eastern Conference for two months starting in late July, but a 2-6-1 mark down the stretch – including a 1-0 loss in a Wild Card match at Colorado – has the team searching for answers as to who the real Crew were in 2011. With a record of 13-13-8, the Crew were inconsistent throughout the year and struggled to find top gear at times.
However their best moment came as they were in the midst of their lowest point of the season. The Crew were rapidly sinking by October, with a single point in six games, when midfielder Eddie Gaven returned from an eight-game absence (right leg bone contusion) to score a brilliant diving header in the 60th minute to provide a 2-1 win over D.C. United in Columbus’ home finale, effectively saving their season.
Without doubt a low-point came against Seattle, as the Crew were well and truly trounced by their former boss and his young side. It started with a ball on the CenturyLink Field turf on Aug. 27 that skipped past goalkeeper William Hesmer in the fourth minute and ended with a humiliating 6-2 defeat to Seattle, unleashing the 0-5-1 skid.
Forward Emilio Rentería had eight goals in just 18 regular-season games, but none was better than his cracking side-volley off a Gaven service in the 72nd minute at Chicago on Oct. 22. The South American impressed in his time with Columbus as he played the target-man role superbly.
Goalie Hesmer has another fine year in net after recovering from his 2010 shoulder injury. One of his best stops came against the Revolution, as he was already leaning to his left in anticipation after New England’s Milton Caraglio drilled a 30-yard strike on Oct. 15, that was deflected halfway to goal by Crew defender Chad Marshall. A diving Hesmer stuck his right foot in the air and caught a piece of the ball to preserve a 1-0 lead.
Gaven made a strong bid to be the team’s MVP after his exhilarating return from injury towards the end of the campaign. But if anyone deserves extra credit for the Crew’s success in 2011, it’s center back Chad Marshall, who had to break in newcomers at the other three defensive positions as well as assume the captaincy from Hejduk.
Quietly efficient: That describes 31-year-old Chilean right back Sebastián Miranda in his first MLS season, who slotted in superbly to the Ohio side'ss backline. He committed a mere 18 fouls while starting all 35 matches and supported the midfield as well as looking solid defensively. The Crew’s 2011 season was up and down, and Warzycha will hope to have more success next season.