Soccer MLS

5 Bold Predictions for the Columbus Crew’s 2014 MLS Season

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2014 MLS Season: 5 Bold Predictions for the Columbus Crew

Columbus Crew 2014 MLS Season
Trevor Ruszkowski - USA TODAY Sports

It is a new era for the Columbus Crew heading into the 2014 MLS season. They have a new coach and new ownership replacing a regime that has been in place since 2006. There has been a level of stagnation for the Crew that was in need of change. The team is putting the right pieces in place to get back to winning, but the competition in the Eastern Conference will be too tough to overcome this year.

When Anthony Precourt bought the team he made it clear there would be some changes and one of the first would be to find a new coach. Precourt led an extensive search that landed Gregg Berhalter, a former U.S. international defender. Berhalter brings plenty of experience from signing with Zwolle, playing in MLS with the Los Angeles Galaxy and managing at Hammarby IF.

The personnel have changed and with that the management hopes the player mentality follows suit. Columbus had several impressive performances last season, but injuries and inconsistencies plagued the team. They finished eighth in the Eastern Conference with many holes to fill. They have addressed some of these, but are still finding their new identity.

Michael Parkhurst’s rights were acquired so that the Crew could sign the USMNT defender. They also brought Michigan native and goalkeeper Steve Clark back from Honefoss. The other major acquisition is Costa Rican defender Giancarlo Gonzalez. He started 20 matches for Vålerenga in Norway last year and scored the only goal for his team against Clark and Honefoss.

Now Berhalter takes the reigns of this roster and forges forward in a much improved Eastern Conference. The club is speaking all the right words as they look to right the ship, but this should truly shape up to be a rebuilding year. Berhalter is a capable coach that will have to work through some trials and tribulations. While the Crew should end the season showing improved play, realistic expectations do not include playoffs.

Douglas Smith is a soccer writer for Follow him on Twitter @DFresh39, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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5. The Crew will allow the most goals on set pieces in the league

Ben Speas Columbus Crew
Jonathan Dyer - USA TODAY Sports

The Crew have no height in the expected back line and opposing teams will looks to expose Columbus through the air. Gonzalez is 6-foot-3, but is the only defender over six feet tall. Wil Trapp is expected to be at the defensive midfield spot and comes in at 5-foot-8. Set pieces are going to be hard to defend for Columbus.

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4. Michael Parkhurst will finish the season at right back

Michael Parkhurst Columbus Crew
Scott Olmos - USA TODAY Sports

As opposing teams begin to exploit their height differential, Parkhurst will be forced out to right back. He is expected to start at central defender with Gonzalez. While moving him to right back would aid the USMNT, it is not the ideal move for Berhalter. Parkurst is considered one of the smartest players on the field so the composure he brings has less value on the edge. Moving Parkhurst would slot Josh Williams and his 6-foot-2 frame in the middle to help with set piece defense.

If Parkhurst is called into Brazil for depth purposes, he would be considered an option at right back, so he could transition back to the Crew on the edge.

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3. Dominic Oduro will excel despite trends

Dominic Oduro Columbus Crew
Trevor Ruszkowski - USA TODAY Sports

The trend for Dominic Oduro is to do well in odd numbered years as illustrated by his 13 goals last season. However, his link-up with Federico Higuan is a good relationship and moving to the wing last year was something that helped Oduro find space. Oduro should shake his trend of using his athleticism and ability to get into tight spaces. He will be called upon week after week giving him plenty of opportunities to excel.

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2. The Crew will be looking for a new central midfielder in the summer

Columbus Crew MLS
Kevin Hoffman - USA TODAY Sports

If there is one major area of weakness for the Crew, it is in central midfield, especially a player to get forward to start the attack. Right now, Agustin Viana and Ethan Findley figure to take the bulk of time in this role, but it is unsure how they will link the team from defense to offense. Other areas of the team could gel as time wears on under Berhalter. The central midfield will be an area of concern and Precourt may try to bring in someone to fill the gap in the summer.

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1. The biggest problem for the Crew will be execution

Gregg Berhalter Columbus Crew
Jonathan Dyer - USA TODAY Sports

This may seem obvious with a new coach trying to build a new mentality. However, it comes down to adoption of tactics and how the players work in the selected formation. Berhalter is inheriting players and must make them fit into a style he sees as potentially successful. In the preseason, the Crew have aimed at a 4-2-3-1 formation, but it has operated completely different. Berhalter has also experimented with a 3-5-2 because of his faith in Gonzalez and Parkhurst. Implementing that strategy seems to be something for the future.

There are just too many changes coming into this season and understanding Berhalter's system will take some time. This will be a better team by the end of the season.