Columbus Crew SC experienced a pretty successful 2017 despite off-field controversy and a front office that is determined to leave for Texas. But with the injury bug, a few key departures and ongoing turmoil off the field and in the stands, can the Crew save themselves in 2018?
Off-Season Grade: B-
Columbus were wheeling and dealing players away early in the off season. Justin Meram left for Orlando and Ola Kamara was sent to the bright lights of LA. Gyasi Zardes made his way from LA to Ohio to join Gregg Berhalter and his side. Columbus also brought in Ricardo Clark as a free agent.
The spine of the team is still in place with Wil Trapp, Federico Higuain and Zack Steffen in the side. Zardes may not be a sexy signing by any means, but he is a piece the Crew needed. Maybe a new side is just what the former Galaxy homegrown needs.
Key Player: Zack Steffen
Man, he’s good. He’s really good. So good that he probably will not play for the Crew for much longer. But as long as he is in Columbus, he is their most important player. Sorry Pipa. You are still very important too, but Zack Steffen pretty much single handedly got you guys past Atlanta last season
Best Case Scenario: U.S. Open Cup Champions
Getting beat by a USL team in the fourth round last season will probably stoke a fire for a good USOC run. The team knows they can’t control what happens off the field as far as relocation goes, so they will want to give their fans something this season. I think the Open Cup is just that competition to do so.
Bold prediction: Zardes Revived
Zardes needs a change of pace. He’s falling out of the national team picture, and just a few seasons ago he was a hot commodity in MLS. Now he’s just another American born MLS player. Two goals and two assists last season was a career low.
He won’t win the Golden Boot or anything, but expect positive things from Zardes this season.