Afternoon Delight: What Columbus Is Doing Right

Afternoon Delight: What Columbus Is Doing Right

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On May 5, 2008

I saw the result late Saturday evening while I was visiting some friends in Austin, Texas, the Columbus Crew had beaten Kansas City 2-1 . Robbie Rogers and Adam Moffet each scored to keep the Crew as the league’s pace setter in the early going on the 2008 campaign.

So what exactly is Sigi Schmid’s club doing right in Columbus? Strong defense? A stellar attack? I think a few things can be summed into the success of the Crew in the early going of this season.

1. Strong Home Play: Four of the five wins have come from the friendly confines of Crew Stadium in Columbus. I swear before long this will be the Wrigley Field of soccer. Sure the attendance hasn’t been so strong but the play at the Crew Stadium has been.

Normally the Crew don’t get this many home games to start the year, which is in part why their attendance has been weak from what I’ve read. Typically in April and May the Crew see around three to four home games because of weather and what not. But this season the Crew saw three home games before May and now after the start of May they have had another one. Sure the attendance is weak but the play has been mighty strong.

But as we’ve seen in the past, you play well at home, you typically end up doing well overall in the season. Chivas dominated at home a year ago and were almost the Supporter’s Shield winners. Good things do happen to those who keep their home a fortress.

2. The play of Alejandro Moreno: This part has gotten me all confused. Before he came to Columbus last year Moreno was a decent start in the league. Not a great start but one that at least would contribute from time to time while he was a member of the Quakes/Dynamo.

He was originally drafted by Sigi Schmid when they were both in LA with the Galaxy back in 2002. So the familiarity was always there between the two. Last year things were okay-but-not-great for Moreno. He did lead the team in goals with seven but that is never enough to put a club in the playoffs in MLS. This year he is already half way there to his mark of last year’s total.

I think a full offseason with Schmid and his system has also helped Moreno get more use to how things work again with his coach. Coming over in a midseason trade can be tough and it was for Moreno. But now it appears that it was probably a great deal for the Crew in the end.

3. A solid number one keeper: Last year the Crew rotated between William Hesmer and Andy Gruenebaum and things didn’t really work out in that rotation. Neither really stepped up as a number one starter until the end when it was Hesmer who really emerged as the better of the two. Hesmer didn’t stop this year either. In six games he’s posted some decent numbers including two shutouts.

Having a keeper step up into a number one role can be tough in this league but when one does and it works out clubs typically start to get better in the process. Columbus is no different in this case. Hesmer is stepped up, made some key saves, blocked a couple of PKs early in the season and has helped lead the Crew to the league’s best record thus far.

Right now Columbus is in good position thanks to Hesmer and his defense. Currently fifth in goals-against with just seven, the Crew are pacing along very nicely in the early going of the season. In only two games have they given up more than one goal. Not bad at all.

4. The emerging play of Robbie Rogers: We called for Rogers to step up and have a breakout type of season and I think so far he is with three goals in six matches. Two of those three were game winners too. Its not just Moreno who has stepped up but Rogers has really come into his own this season I think. He’s still very young but very talented.

I think if Rogers can net at least 10 goals this season the Crew will have no problem reaching the playoffs and making noise in those playoffs.

5. Staying healthy: This may be the biggest reason as to why the Crew are playing as well as they are. Look at their defense, no real big injury concerns so far. Same goes with the midfield and the attack. This club is either old or really young so health is a huge issue for them. The longer they go without a big injury to one of their defenders, Schelotto or Moreno the better chance this club has at winning the Supporter’s Shield and reaching the playoffs.

I think this club still has a good shot at things if they remain healthy. We know this is key with any club as we saw Chivas last year go through the season winning in spans and then hit September with injuries. They then exited the playoffs in the first round thanks in part to those injuries and its a possibility that even now they haven’t gotten over those injuries from a season ago.

A few things they could still do:

  1. A couple transfers/trades: I still see this club making another move or two this summer if the timing and price is right. They could easily use another veteran defender and another striker.
  2. Allow Schelotto to create more: Sure he is tied for the lead in assist right now with four but I would love to see him create more than he already is here. Honestly he has to get no less than 15 assist this season for this club to reach the playoffs in my mind.
  3. More shots on goal: I know Robbie Rogers is up in the charts with shots and shots on goal but this club needs one or two more players adding to that total right now. Keeping their league leading shots up and increasing their shots on goal will only add to their success

Things to keep an eye after:

  1. The road: Some up coming road trips look tough for the Crew. They start out light going to San Jose this weekend but after that is Toronto. We may see them stumble again on the road in Toronto. As good of a job as they’ve done at home this year their two road games weren’t all that great. The DC win was good but the NY loss was terrible. Strong play on the road early on this season will easily help them have strong play late in the season.
  2. Possession: The less possession they have the harder it will be for this club to remain atop the standings. Its simple soccer, the more possession equals more chances on net and less chances on your own net.
  3. Injuries: I made a point about it up top but injuries would undoubtedly hurt this club in a big way. They’ve had some young guys step up but not in a way that would make me believe that in the event that one of their main players would go down that they’d be able to step up and continue to contribute. Maybe I’m wrong about a couple of them but so far Schmid hasn’t had to worry a that much about plugging in young talent for older talent going down.