After his trade to the Columbus Crew from the Chicago Fire over the winter, Ante Razov has taken a philosophical approach to his current situation.
"Change is good sometimes," Razov said. But how is the change proving to be? "So far, so good," said the 31-year-old striker.
With Crew head coach Greg Andrulis echoing the sentiment, things seem to be going in the right direction for Razov and his new team.
After six years and 76 goals with Chicago, Razov was traded for Tony Sanneh in the offseason. Razov was brought in to pair with Edson Buddle to form what has the potential to be the most lethal partnership in MLS -- some feel even more so than Razov and his former Chicago strike partner Damani Ralph.
"Leaving Chicago was difficult," Razov said. "That is where I made my name. But things have really gone well for me since I have been here. I'm happy and excited to be on this team."
A lot is expected of Razov this season, his ninth as a professional.
"Ante has proven, when he's healthy, he can score a boatload of goals. That's why he's here," Andrulis said. "But that's not the only reason. He makes the other players around him better. He makes great runs, he links up well with the midfield -- he's a fierce competitor. There is a whole package there that made him very attractive to us.
More than anything, Razov should contribute to consistency to his new side, something that has been missing from the Columbus attack since the departure of Brian McBride.
"My job is to score goals, to create goals. I have a good partner in Edson. Our goal is to be the most dangerous duo in the league," Razov said.
Unfortunately for the Crew, Razov and Buddle have not had much time to establish cohesion between them.
"We have both been coming off injuries so we haven't had too much time together," Razov said. "But we scored some goals in Spain, and we scored on Saturday. As the season progresses I think we will get better and better."
Buddle scored the only goal in the Crew's 1-0 win Saturday against the Charleston Battery of the USL First Division in the opening game of the Carolina Challenge Cup in Charleston, S.C. The tournament, also featuring D.C. United and San Jose Earthquakes, runs through Friday.
Unfortunately for the Razov and Buddle, they are going to have to wait for more time on the field together. Buddle came off Saturday after just 30 minutes with what Andrulis classified as a high ankle sprain. He is not likely to see any more action before the start of the season April 2.
For Razov too, injuries remain an issue going into the season. Last year Razov's season came to an end in August after undergoing ankle surgery. The ankle has healed nicely, but Razov has incurred other injuries since preseason began in February.
"I have a little groin strain right now," Razov said. "The other side, not the side I had worked on. The fitness is coming along well. I feel good. Going into the first month of the season I should be ready to go."
Against Charleston, Razov put in 60 quality minutes.
There were some observers who questioned whether acquiring Razov was worth the loss of Sanneh, a key figure in the Crew's run in the second half of the season to finish on top of the Eastern Conference with 49 points.
"We are a different team, going in a different direction," Andrulis said. "Tony was a great addition for what was going on with the team last year, but we are taking a new direction this year. Ante is part is part of that new direction."
Andrulis said that he met with Razov shortly after the trade and explained to him exactly what, besides scoring lots and lots of goals, he expects from the veteran striker.
"He's been through the wars, fought the battles," Andrulis said. "Right now he is playing with a lot of young guys who are trying to learn. He's shown that he has the ability and the patience that is necessary to bring some of the young guys along -- to be a leader on this team."
Razov and the Crew face San Jose on Tuesday in Charleston, while D.C. United will take on the host Battery.
Andrew Mosier is a contirbutor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.