Thursday, March 10, 2011
March 19th marks the start of the 2011 MLS season for the Columbus Crew and for neurotic fans, like myself, this is both an exciting and stressful time. It's a time when we start to find out what this team is really like, and if what we've seen up to this point in preseason really matters.
Now normally I'd say preseason results are largely meaningless in any sport, and even more so in MLS. The games are played by weird grab bag rules with unlimited subs, 30 to 60 minute periods and all sorts of guest and trail players. Usually this makes the preseason nothing more than glorified try outs. This year though feels a bit different. Perhaps its because of the massive roster overhaul,or perhaps it's because it was early start back in the CCL, but this year preseason feels like it matters. The new look Crew of 2011 has no real identity, and it would seem these preseason games would be the time to establish one.
The trouble has been a plague of injuries sweeping through the locker room. Having key guys like Marshall, Hesmer, Gaven, O'Rourke, Francis and Gruenebaum out means that the new guys are left on their own to figure out who this team really is. This of course isn't exactly groundbreaking news, but it's exactly the kind of stressful situation that makes preseason so draining. Crew fans are notoriously bi-polar (spending just a few weeks on the bigsoccer.com message boards can show that to anyone)and having your team get beaten repeatedly with a corps of new players is no help for our fragile psyches.
Couple these beatings with a miserable away leg in the CCL and a lack of any signings that are known commodities and a dreadful outlook tends to sneak in.
The only saving grace maybe in the knowledge that this has happened before. In 2008 the team had a average to sub-par preseason, and had just come off three straight disappointing seasons. Yet that Crew was able to rally and become one of the best teams in MLS history.
Do I think this year will be a repeat of that magic? Of course not.
But I can hope that some sort of middle ground is found and this team can prove that I had no need to worry or have these preseason blues.