Columbus Crew SC
Author: Franco Panizo | Cover illustration by Duane Tomaszewski
After going from MLS Cup finalist in 2015 to Eastern Conference strugglers last year, Columbus Crew SC are looking to get back into the conversation of league contenders. A few key pieces from the team that was battling for a championship two season ago moved on this offseason, but a chunk of the roster remains intact and head coach Gregg Berhalter has brought in some other quality pieces to round out a squad that wants to get back to being among the best.
Key Offseason Transactions
|KEY PLAYERS IN:||KEY PLAYERS OUT:|
|Jonathan Mensah (D)|
Mohammed Abu (M)
Artur (M) All transactions
|Michael Parkhurst (D)|
Steve Clark (GK)
Mohammed Saeid (D)
Player to watch: Ola Kamara
While the departure of Kei Kamara was ugly, the arrival of Ola Kamara as his replacement was a sight to behold. The Norwegian striker banged in an impressive 16 goals in his debut MLS season, and that number might only increase now that he has a full campaign to serve as Columbus' main scoring threat.
How they'll play
HEAD COACH - GREGG BERHALTER
Some key players may have left and 2016 was certainly a down year, but expect Columbus Crew SC to have more or less the same identity in Year 4 of the Gregg Berhalter era. That is, expect them to continue to play an aggressive and dynamic style that asks the fullbacks and wingers to get deep into the attack to help create chances for the creative attacking midfielder and lone striker.
Projected Starting XI
4-2-3-1, right to left: Zack Steffen (GK) — Harrison Afful (D), Jonathan Mensah (D), Nicolai Naess (D), Waylon Francis (D) — Wil Trapp (M), Tony Tchani (M) — Ethan Finlay (M), Federico Higuain (F), Justin Meram (M) – Ola Kamara (F)
8th in Eastern Conference. Columbus Crew SC should improve on their disappointing 2016 campaign, but the gap between them and the top of the Eastern Conference will probably still be quite large. Crew SC do not have an abundance of quality proven depth, which is a big strike against them, and are bound to see promising young goalkeeper Zack Steffen go through growing pains. Throw in the possibility that aging string-puller Federico Higuain might also not be the same player he used to be because of the injury problems he had last year, and the fact that Columbus have a new starting center back in Designated Player Jonathan Mensah that needs to adapt to MLS, and it all just seems like making the playoffs is a tough ask regardless of the talent the squad possesses.