Over the next month I will be putting out a series of previews for MLS (not The) this season. I know you are all wondering why should I care about MLS, however here are a couple facts to get you going.
- Since 2007 the league has gone from 13 to 24 teams (and counting)
- Last year MLS added a new team in LA owned by Will Ferrell, Magic Johnson, Nomar Garciaparra, and Mia Hamm!
- Soccer has the longest run time of the 4 major sports in 90 minutes, however because there’s no commercials the game only lasts 2 hours.
- Great players such as Josef Martinez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Carlos Vela, and many many more come to a tv near you every week!
- ESPN+ has made it very easy to find each game every week.
*Editors Note: Today my friend Elliott from Columbus helped me with this one. The fans have gone through a lot in recent years so I am really happy for him and the Columbus fans.
Columbus Crew S.C.
Coach: Caleb Porter
Owner: Haslam & Edwards Families
Leading Scorer: Gyasi Zardes 19 Goals
Previous Record: 14-11-9 5th in East
2018 U.S. Open Cup: Fourth Round
Stadium: Mapfre Stadium
Well, we all know where this is going to start. The 2018 Columbus Crew were often the talk of MLS with the well-known public battle of their potential relocation to Austin, TX by their owner, Anthony Precourt. After lawsuits and a vigorous grassroots “Save the Crew” campaign, the Haslam family (Cleveland Browns owners) swooped in to purchase the team from Precourt. They did this with the help of long time team physician, Dr. Pete Edwards, keeping the Crew in Columbus going forward.
On the field, the team did its best to drown out the drama surrounding the future of the club, & despite a back & forth campaign, their season commenced in a 5th place finish in the Eastern Conference. Led by young stars such as Wil Trapp and recent Manchester City signing Zack Steffen, the crew advanced to the Eastern Conference semi-finals, losing to the NY Red Bulls on aggregate.
Off Season Transactions
*A couple things to highlight here:
- Despite agreeing to a transfer with Manchester City, Columbus will have the services of GK Zack Steffen until July.
- Columbus acquired young Designated Player Milton Valenzuela on a full transfer, who had previously been on loan.
- Columbus signed veteran GK Joe Bendik, who will compete for the backup role with Jon Kempin until Steffan’s departure.
- While coach Gregg Berhalter has left for the US job, former Portland Timbers coach Caleb Porter brings championship experience & has fans excited for the future in Columbus.
- New Brazlian signing Robinho will look to add youth & depth to the wings behind presumed starters Justin Meram & Pedro Santos.
- Former Toronto GM Tim Bezbatchenko is taking over the same role in Columbus, who is known for big name signings & also bringing championship pedigree.
Now that the off the field issues are settled, Columbus has optimism going forward. The new owners struck gold with new coach Caleb Porter & GM Tim Bezbatchenko. While the system might look different than it was under Berhalter, fans should trust Porter will make an attractive & efficient product on the field. Midfielder Federico Higuian will most likely play in final year in Columbus, but with his presence, the return of playmaking Brazilian Artur, as well as the (re)emergence of forward Gyasi Zardes, Columbus should have a strong attack in the 2019 season. Columbus also returns its veteran back line including the full transfer of Valenzuela, who looks to build off an extremely strong first MLS campaign.
With the new leadership in the front office, Columbus fans can hope for more impactful signings before the season begins. With the new high-profile names all over the league, Columbus talent-gap has its work cut out in the Eastern Conference, but I’d fully expect Columbus to be back in the playoffs & be in the hunt for its second MLS championship. Along with a new downtown stadium in the works, the optimism and hype around soccer in Columbus is as high as it’s ever been.
The Crew have been saved, Columbus has its team, and it is not going anywhere.