With one of the youngest rosters in the league, the Columbus Crew (2-3-0, 6 points) have gotten off to a lukewarm start in 2012. A handful of rookies play extensive minutes for the Crew, who started strongly with back-to-back victories over Montreal and Toronto FC in March.
Fantasy Spotlight caught up with Crew beat writer Craig Merz to discuss the early returns on newcomer Milovan Mirosevic’s and the struggles of Crew mainstay Eddie Gaven.
Fantasy Spotlight: Milovan Mirosevic (pictured right) came into the season with high expectations but has just the one goal in 450 minutes – and that was from the penalty spot – what have you seen from him so far?
Craig Merz: Mirosevic seems lost in the current system. In the first week at Colorado, he played behind Emilio Renteria in a sort of 4-4-1-1 (though Warzycha would never call it that). Renteria wasn't happy with the lack of support and Mirosevic hardly saw the ball. Mirosevic is playing more of a center midfield position now, but those problems are the same. Offensively, he has not provided much, although he's had some really good long balls and he has exceptional vision when given the opportunity.
On the other hand, I've seen a player willing to defend all parts of the pitch. He's also a professional player – he's serious about his work and learning to adapt to MLS and the US.
FS: Kirk Urso has played every minute as a holding midfielder. How has he performed? Is having a rookie partner in center midfield affecting Mirosevic at all?
Merz: Yes, this goes back to the issues with Milosevic. Urso is competent defensively and learning the pro game but he will not provide much to the attack (except for on restarts). Additionally, you have another rookie in Ethan Finlay getting minutes as well. Mirosevic is not being put in position to make a difference and some of that has to be the lack of experience for Urso, but that will come.
FS: How would you explain Eddie Gaven's early season struggles?
Merz: Certainly Gaven has struggled, but he's not been able to move as freely as in the past. Some of it could be the absence of Robbie Rogers, who took pressure off him, on the other side. His outside partners (Dilly Duka, Finlay and Bernardo Anor) don't strike a ton of fear in opposing defenses, so Gaven has been the subject of shutdown approaches. After averaging 2.5 fouls suffered last season he has just 7 through 5 games this year (1.4 fouls per game) and his shots per game are down as well.
FS: What's been going on with the forward pairing of Olman Vargas and Renteria (pictured with Urso at right)? The shot totals for both are on the low side. Do you see signs that one of them is going to break out?
Merz: This is truly a work in progress. They still haven't clicked. Vargas likes to have the ball and shoot while Renteria doesn't mind taking on defenders, so they should able to complement each other. But, again, a lot of the lack of shots goes back to poor service from the midfielders. You've got to have the ball to be able to shoot. I was not impressed with Vargas early, but I've seen him work hard for 90 minutes and have changed my opinion. He's really good in the air so I'd suspect he might be the one to break out first.
FS: Finally, which of the rookies in the Crew setup have the potential to be fantasy contributors? Perhaps Ethan Finley or Aaron Schonfeld?
Merz: I like Finlay's determination and spunk. Urso may be replaced soon by a healthy Danny O'Rourke, but the Crew like Urso's dead-ball ability so he may stay in the lineup. With Tom Heinemann out for the year, I suspect Schonfeld will be one of the first players off the bench, so he could be the surprise rookie of the bunch.