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Countdown to First Kick: 25 Columbus' new hope

As First Kick, presented by Dick's Sporting Goods approaches, MLSsoccer.com is marking each passing day with a different statistic, observation or talking point, setting the stage for the beginning of the 2012 MLS campaign.

25 – caps with the Chilean national team for the Columbus Crew's Milovan Mirosevic

Milovan Mirosevic is not Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Crew manager Robert Warzycha has already made that much clear.

He is, however, a new hope for a club that has been searching for someone to pull the attacking strings since Schelotto departed following the 2010 season. The Emmanuel Ekpo experiment didn't work out. Dilly Duka is brimming with talent and promise, but he also lacks experience leading the attack. Eddie Gaven seems more suited to a wide role. Robbie Rogers and his lofty potential but spotty production has made the jump to Leed United.

That leaves the brunt of the burden to Mirosevic, with Duka acting as an able deputy. And while the 31-year-old may not bring the same pedigree that Guille brought to Crew Stadium, he is no slouch himself, having captained Chilean club Universidad Católica and spearheaded their attack since his return in 2008 to the club where he began his professional career more than a decade earlier.

If his production in Chile is any indication, the Crew can feel comfortable knowing their mulit-year commitment has a good chance of paying off. He scored 46 goals over 108 games in his second stint with Universidad Católica and helped lead them to four championships during that period. Add to those accomplishments the fact that Mirosevic led the league in scoring in 2010 with 19 goals, and Columbus fans have reason to believe a return to the glory years under Sigi Schmid and Schelotto in 2007 and 2008 may not be that far off.

Still, there is no telling how well Mirosevic will adapt to MLS, or if players such as Olman Vargas (another new signing from Costa Rica) or Tommy Heinemann can help replace the 13 goals Andrés Mendoza scored in 2011. If they can fill that void and Mirosevic hits the ground running, the Crew could be eyeing more than the early playoff exit they were forced to make do with last season.

Columbus will open the 2012 season with a visit to the Colorado Rapids on March 10. The Crew's first home match will be on March 24 against MLS newcomers Montreal Impact. GET TICKETS!

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