Can Columbus get back on top of the Eastern Conference mountain? (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Can Columbus get back on top of the Eastern Conference mountain? (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

One more season preview for the day. We’ll shift back to the Eastern Conference with the Columbus Crew.

Manager Robert Warzycha spent a good part of this offseason getting his squad to be younger. Between draft picks, Homegrown signings and transfers, he’s done a pretty solid job of that. But did he make his club a contender for 2013? It is time to find out.

Last year the Crew just missed out on a playoff berth in the crowded Eastern Conference. 

Columbus Crew

2012 MLS Record: 15-12-7 (sixth in Eastern Conference), 52 points

[twocol_one]IN:
Wil Trapp (12/13/12 – Homegrown)
Tyson Wahl (1/3/13 – free)
Chad Barson (1/10/13 – Homegrown)
Ryan Finley (1/17/13 – SuperDraft)
Gláuber (1/22/13 – Discovery)
D/M Agustín Viana (1/28/13 – Discovery)
Dominic Oduro (2/4/13 – trade from Chicago)
Matías Sánchez (2/8/13 – Discovery)[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]OUT: 
Cole Grossman (11/19/12 – option declined)
Olman Vargas (11/19/12 – option declined)
Nemanja Vukovic (11/19/12 – option declined)
Rich Balchan (11/28/12 – option declined)
Julius James (11/28/12 – option declined)
Sebastián Miranda (11/28/12 – option declined)
Chris Birchall (11/28/12 – option declined)
Tommy Heinemann (11/28/12 – option declined)
GK William Hesmer (11/28/12 – option declined)
Carlos Mendes (12/11/12 – signed with NY Cosmos)
Dilly Duka (2/4/13 – trade to Chicago)[/twocol_one_last]

Key Questions for 2013

“Obviously, we have some new guys in, but everyone has gelled pretty quickly,” Marshall said to theCrew.com. “I think everyone has a good understanding of what people like to do in certain situations” 1. Has the turnover been good for the Crew? Looking at all the moves the Crew have made this offseason, the amount of names in and out jump out at your. Columbus added a couple HGPs, some speed in Dominic Oduro, youth in Ryan Finley and a couple discovery additions in defender Glauber and defensive midfielder Matias Sanchez. But did the Crew get better with these youth moves? I think so. Sanchez is said to be a destroyer in the midfield, someone that will give them a lot of minutes and cover a ton of ground. Oduro gives them the speed option up top that they have lacked the last couple of seasons while I see their HGP signings as moves that will pan out this year. Columbus got deeper this winter in the end, even with all the names leaving, I really feel they got deeper.

2. Will Jairo Arrieta and Fedrico Higuain continue to be the focal point? You almost think they have to be in year two. I think what makes that combo even better is that they’ll have a full preseason of training to really fine tune their relationship. Throw in the additions that Columbus has made and we could see something fairly special in Ohio this season.

3. Have the Crew filled their hole at left back? It appears so with the addition of Agustin Viana. The Uruguayan is expected to fill a big hole at left back, an area that was a big concern of the Crew’s in 2012. Teams were able to zero in on the Crew’s weakness on the flanks in the back last year. Viana has to adapt to MLS though, and with speedsters on the outside, he’ll need to show the ability to slow down players with pace and also help contribute up the field. If he can do that, the Crew stand to do well against some of the league’s quicker clubs.

Breakout Player for 2013

Matias Sanchez – Everything I have seen (online in highlights) and from what folks have told me is that this 25-year old is the real deal. He won’t be flashy with big stats or anything like that but he could very well be the next big thing in MLS in a holding/defensive midfield role.

Predictions for 2013

- Columbus will go after another South American DP this year. Part of me sees the Crew being one more player away from being a contender in the East. They have some quality all around and their depth is pretty good but something tells me they need one more special player to get it done.

- One of their HGPs will make an impact. The Crew have plenty of Homegrown players. More than most clubs at this point. Wil Trapp looks like a guy that will see plenty of minutes but don’t sleep on defender Chad Barson getting some time as well.