COLUMBUS, Ohio – The first salvo was delivered by Columbus Crew president Mark McCullers on Jan. 20. That’s when he told MLSoccer.com, in the wake Milovan Mirosevic’s return to Chile, that there was a plan to fill out the skeleton roster with not only quantity but quality.
"If the scenarios we're working on get completed," he boasted, "I definitely believe we are going to make the playoffs and I believe we are a team that can win the Eastern Conference championship."
The usually more measured coach Robert Warzycha doubled down on that second part on Friday, in the wake of the of Argentine defensive midfielder Matías Sánchez putting pen to paper.
With the other additions over the past three weeks – left back Agustín Viana, center back Gláuber and forward Dominic Oduro – McCullers seems to have put deeds to words, leaving Warzycha to declare that this team is the best he's had since his first season in 2009.
Coming off an MLS Cup/Supporters’ Shield double the previous year under coach Sigi Schmid, the Crew won another Shield in ’09, their last piece of significant hardware.
"It was a very, very good team," Warzycha said. "This team can be that good because we have good players."
Then he went a step further. Not only is the ’09 squad in his sights, but Warzycha says the current group might be better than the 2008 team.
"On paper, I think so," he said.
That championship team had a decisive defensive midfielder in Brian Carroll. Carroll’s not big or particularly fast, but he was cool under pressure and served as the perfect conduit between the backline and midfield because of his solid passing and reading of the game.
The 2013 team's version could very well be the 25-year-old Sánchez, who comes to the Crew from Estudiantes. His resume fairly sparkles: He helped the Argentine side win the Copa Libertadores, and won a U-20 World Cup (above) for his country playing alongside the likes of Sergio Agüero.
"That's a good comparison," Warzycha said of Sánchez and Carroll. "[Sánchez] understands the pressure and when to stay calm. He is a two-way midfielder. He is not afraid to go forward and is a good passer and also has a good shot."
His arrival will allow Viana to compete for a starting left back position against another newcomer, Tyson Wahl. Viana can also play as a defensive midfielder if the need arises.
"I will play wherever the coach decides," Viana told MLSsoccer.com this week. "I give everything in training to push the Crew to first place in the league."
In that regard he is in agreement with his new coach, and president.