Over the next two weeks, MLSsoccer.com will preview each of the 19 teams in Major League Soccer, beginning with the clubs that brought up the bottom of the table in 2012 and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. This is part two of two previewing Columbus' 2013 season. You can find Part 1 here.
2012 record: 15-12-7 (52 points); 44 GF / 44 GA (0 GD)
Depth chart: 1. Andy Gruenebaum, 2. Matt Lampson, 3. TBD
Strengths: Gruenebaum was stellar (1.26 GAA, 8 shutouts) in his first season as a starter after backing up William Hesmer since 2006. He led the league with 124 saves in 33 games.
Weaknesses: Unlike recent history when the Crew had two veteran 'keepers (see above), Lampson appeared in three games, starting one, as a rookie in 2012. Also, the third-stringer will likely be a rookie.
Wild card: Lampson in his few appearances showed the rawness of a young player but also excellent athleticism. Having survived the potentially fatal Hodgkin¹s lymphoma as a teenager, he has the proper demeanor to shake off adversity.
Depth chart: CB: 1. Josh Williams, 2. Drew Beckie, 3. Chad Barson CB: 1. Chad Marshall, 2. Gláuber, 3. Eric Gehrig, 4. Danny O'Rourke LB: 1. Tyson Wahl, 2. Bernardo Añor
Strengths: Versatility is the key. Williams can also play center and left back and newcomer Agustín Viana can easily slide from the midfield into the left side.
Weaknesses: Experience is lacking for the backups on the outside with Beckie and Barson being rookies and the possibility that the experiment of using midfielder Añor at left back in a pinch continues.
Wild card: Much is expected from the Brazilian newcomer Gláuber both defensively and contributing an aerial presence on set pieces but he struggled at times in the preseason.
Depth Chart: CM (holding): 1. Matías Sánchez, 2. Agustín Viana, 3. Danny O'Rourke, 4. Tony Tchani, 5. Kevan George RM: 1. Dominic Oduro, 2. Ethan Finlay, 3. Wil Trapp LM: 1. Eddie Gaven, 2. Justin Meram, 3. Ben Speas
Strengths: The defensive midfield is full of veteran players, and with Sanchez and Viana the Crew has two who don't panic under pressure. Gaven had a career year (nine goals) in 2012 and Oduro adds speed on the flank the Crew hasn't seen in years.
Weaknesses: With the likelihood of three new faces in the midfield, the chemistry may be lacking at the start of the season.
Wildcard: Speas, a Homegrown signee, made his debut in the 2012 finale vs. Toronto FC and should press for playing time although the midfield and forward spots are loaded.
Depth Chart: 1. Federico Higuaín, 2. Jairo Arrieta, 3. Ryan Finley, 4. Aaron Schoenfeld, 5. Aaron Horton
Strengths: Although Higuaín and Arrieta played less than half a season together they established themselves as one of the top duos in the league. As on the backline, there's versatility with Gaven, Finlay, Meram and Oduro candidates to move up front if needed.
Weaknesses: Arrieta could miss a few matches while away with the Costa Rican national team, but that's a good problem to have. Of Higuaín's five goals in 13 games last season, none came on the road although four of seven assists were away from Crew Stadium.
Wild card: The rookie Finley from Notre Dame is a bulldog not unlike the power ball play of former Crew forward Emilio Rentería. Finley was effective off the bench for the Irish so he should be well suited for his role with the Crew.