It was Crewsmas Eve and all through the city not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. All Tifo’s were hung in the stands with care in the hopes that St. Frankie soon would be there…
The excitement for the upcoming Columbus Crew SC season is high and arguably greater than it has ever been. Both head coach, Gregg Berhalter, and Investor-Operator, Anthony Precourt, are in their second full season with the club coming off a highly successful first campaign. Off the Field, Precourt has been driving the excitement train full speed ahead with some major changes to the club. Near the end of last season he released a rebrand of the crest once deemed the worst in American professional sports and turned it into one of the best crests in Major League Soccer. More recently, Precourt secured a contract with MapFre to rename Columbus Crew Stadium, Mapfre Stadium.
Precourt has not been the only busy one in the front office, Berhalter has been carrying his weight as Sporting Director by making several additions that have the team thinking big things for the upcoming season. The biggest acquisition of the offseason actually happened at the end of last season with the signing of Kei Kamara. Kei, brings his heart shaped hands back to the Bus after an unsuccessful stint in the English Championship and has a personal goal of breaking Stern John’s club record for goals in a season (26). Berhalter also signed Icelandic international Kristinn Steindorrson, who is expected to make an immediate impact in the midfield and he is going to need to if he wants to match the 9 goals that Justin Meram scored last year playing in a similar position. A third major signing this offseason, Hernan Grana, looks to make the start at the right back position in a very stable Columbus defense. The stability of the defense is key for the quick Argentinian to be able to move up into the attacking third in the fast paced, high risk style offense that Berhalter commands.
Kamara, Steindorrson, and Grana are not the only reason for Crew SC supporters to be excited about the product on the field this season. Justin Meram came off a career year last season, signed a well-deserved extension for the club, and earned his first Cap for Iraq in the 2015 Asia Cup. Romain Gall also had one heck of an off season with the United States under 20 team, showing that he could put the ball in the net and with frequency. Finally, Ethan Finlay, got rewarded for finding his form in the latter half of the season by signing a contract extension at a bar in front of the Crew SC faithful. Look for these three young guys to make an even bigger impact this season and draw the attention and respect of the rest of the league while doing it.
It is hard to believe that one could write about the excitement of this Columbus Crew SC team without mentioning the four stars of last year’s playoff squad that are returning this year, and with something to prove. Steve Clark, Michael Parkhurst, Will Trapp, and Federico Higuain are key parts on every level of the field who’s chemistry with each other has potential to take them to the promised land. Clark looks to improve on his stellar campaign last year and bring the goalkeeper of the year back to the fortress that is MapFre stadium. Parkhurst will anchor the defense with the same tenacity that he did last season and rely on his defensive Midfield presence in Will Trapp to help protect against the counter attack as well as control the possession. What more is there to say about Federico “Pipa” Higuain? Pipa has a lot more goal scoring help on the field with him this season and will be able to use this to his advantage to distribute the ball across the field to a range of guys. Look for Higuain to increase his assists from last year (7) and still scare every goalkeeper to death when he has the ball in a free kick opportunity (Looking at you Bobby Shuttleworth).
To say that Columbus Crew SC’s goal at the end of the year is to be playing in the MLS Cup in front of a capacity crowd at MapFre Stadium is not far-fetched, and most in the locker room would agree. An appearance in the Eastern Conference Final would satisfy most all of the supporters and front office staff after the drought of playoff wins in the recent future.
Now Parkhurst! Now Findlay! Now, Francis and Trapp! On, Pipa! On, O you get the idea. A Merry Crewsmas to all and to all a good year.
(image courtesy of Columbus Crew SC)