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2014 Season In Review

Gregg Berhalter Year One Journey, What To Expect In Year Two
By Ryan Kozlowski/Crewture Editor

Gregg Berhalter started 2014 on fire, he was the talk of Major League Soccer with his tactics and attractive style of play; as well as a 3-0 record.

He was anointed tactical king, a guru, perhaps even the great one on this side of the Atlantic.

TopDrawer Soccer announced Berhalter's work as revolutionary three games in:

What Berhalter has done to the Crew over the course of the first three games of the season has been nothing short of revolutionary.

Most young MLS coaches – especially those in their first year because MLS hires unnaturally young – come upon league gates frowning down upon them, and only men like Peter Vermes and Jason Kreis and Bruce Arena stare back from the other side. Most young coaches opt to scale the craggy earthworks to either side, content to play it safe in lieu of attacking ideas. There are few in the league’s history who’ve had the temerity to take the gates head on. Berhalter appears to be one such man.

Gregg Berhalter's praise machine was in high speed. But, then the Crew tanked in their next eight games, losing four and tying four.

Columbus finally got a 'W' against third division opponents, Dayton Dutch Lions, the next time out. A team that after this season may no longer exist professionally and who struggled in the standings in their lower division.

Nine outings and only one win against the Dutch Lions. If were talking about breaking gates, Berhalter went from looking like Gene Hackman in The Heist, to Joe Pesci in Home Alone 2.

It was starting to look like that time, for the Crew fans known for their patience, to start the Fire Gregg Berhalter thread on Bigsoccer.

I think every Crew coach (including Sigi Schmid) has had that honor, some multiple times.

The Dutch Lions win, led to another win the next game against Chicago. Then, the Crew went on to lose four more games and tie four more.

And the thread was officially alive and well.

Since going 3-0, the Crew were 1-8-8 in Major League Soccer in the following 17 games. Ouch.

But, give Berhalter credit for resilience.

Since that low point, the Crew finished the season 10-3-2, rolling into the playoffs.

Talk about a massive turnaround.

In 2015, Berhalter will be looking for more consistency, compared to the roller coaster season his Crew embarked on in 2014.

But, a good sign was that the locker room never turned or gave up belief in Berhalter's plan.

Throughout the season, opposing teams and legendary players such as Thierry Henry said "the Crew will play out of the back, they'll play their game, no matter if their down 1-0 early or up 2-0. They're trying to play their game, their system no matter what."

In addition, Berhalter seems to have the right pulse on signing new players.

Crew fans would've perhaps liked more signings, especially up at striker. Yet, have to give Berhalter credit for not signing players that he didn't believe were a.) a fit or b.) would've got the job done.

On the other hand, when Berhalter did make a move, they were 100% percent the right guys.

-Michael Parkhurst, the consummate professional with US National Team experience.

-Steve Clark, who was brought in to replace the popular Andy Greunebaum and was 100% percent the right guy and then some.

-Giancarlo Gonzalez, who wasn't well known but played well for Columbus, exploded onto the scene with Costa Rica in the World Cup, and was signed by Palermo for a nice transfer fee; Giancarlo actually scored the game winner in his first game for Palermo.

-Waylon Francis, has done well but perhaps can be more attributed to Brian Bliss's work before he left.

-Emmanuel Pogatetz, didn't really get put into the mix as a late signing. But, great experience. Hopefully, he can make a strong partnership with Parkhurst in 2015.

No misfires yet. Which compared to Warzycha, with Sergio Herrera (was a complete misfire) and Andres Mendoza (might not be the best guy for a locker room); Berhalter could be seen, at the moment, as an overall upgrade in that department.

For next season, Berhalter has signed Swedish defensive midfielder Mohammed Saeid, former MLSer' Kei Kamara, and Icelandic winger Kristinn Steindórsson. In addition, he has graduated Ben Swanson to the first team.

Saeid and Steindorsson look like guys who will battle for starting positions and/or depth. In addition, there should still be more space for further key acquisitions.

Overall, I'm excited for the first year of CCSC. I think Berhalter will get the guys that will fit into his system and the Crew will be better overall for it in 2015.

I also think the ability to get over a rocky middle of the season, go 10-3-2 to finish the year, and make the playoffs for the first time since 2011 is something to build on. 2014 could've been a lot worse, Berhalter sticking to his plan turned it around.


Monday, January 26, 2015

1.26.2015: Could Columbus Be In For Yura Movsisyan?

Major League Soccer website's transfer watch is saying there is a team making a move for Yura Movsisyan. The Columbus Crew may be out of international transfer spots, but could they be looking to incorporate some more firepower up front with a green card in hand.
If so, Movsisyan would be a delightful option. He's made the Russian Premier League look like an Indoor Soccer League with his strike rate there (44 goals in 82 overall games).

Yet, with English Premier League interest this past Summer, I doubt Spartak Moscow would let Yura go cheaply; Probably why the Major League Soccer side that made the offer was turned down.

Still if you were to go for broke, and wanted someone that could finish chances, Yura Movsisyan would be an excellent, green card target.

A sort of target that you could say "there you go, we are done with our offseason. Let's go win a trophy." But, I guess that depends on how ambitious Columbus Crew SC are in their first season rebranded.

**In other news, Juan Agudelo is also in negotiations with MLS again.

Not as interested in Agudelo. But, would like the Crew to be a little more aggressive and throw their hat in the ring for another player up top. I think the Crew are one credible striker away from a complete team.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

1.20.2015: Crew's Berhalter Makes A Smart Move For Robert Kristo

Some call him Robert, or Robbie, or Roberto Kristo; either way the 3rd Round Pick for the Columbus Crew will not be in a Crew jersey soon. The highly rated forward out of St. Louis University, is headed to the Serie B in Italy.

American Soccer News reported that the deal was a done one on December 24th, 2014 with a Serie B club, but the club in question hasn't been mentioned.

But, Kristo's Instagram hints it's Serie B side Vicenza Calcio; as Kristo tweeted an Instagram New Years picture mentioning Vecenza, Italy (which umm doesn't exist). But, Vicenza, Italy has a Serie B club called Vicenza Calcio.

Vicenza, who were just promoted, are doing well enough so far in Serie B in 14th place. Yet, are only five points ahead of the relegation places.

If you're hoping to see Kristo in Crew Stadium soon, the best bet is Vicenza has a bad second half of the season and get relegated; then they may be looking to release some players and now Berhalter calls with Kristo's rights in hand.

Or they get relegated and a non-established Kristo doesn't get any other calls, and doesn't find Serie C (now known as Lega Pro Prima) as sexy.

Either way, while you hope for a young American prospect to be successful, Serie B may not work out and it may not even have to do with Kristo, who appears to have tons of potential, but instead the situation.

“He could potentially be signing in Italy right now,” Berhalter told Adam Jardy this afternoon. “We know that. Worst-case scenario, if he did end up signing and he plays a year there or a year and a half there and wants to come back, we own his rights.”

15 hours ago, Kristo posted this picture of him headed to Italy:

If you shook the snow globe of possibilities, my dream scenario now for mid-Summer is Miroslav Klose, with two hungry strikers that have confidence, have scored goals in college like Sagi Lev-Ari and Robert Kristo behind him learning.

That makes a lot more sense if you want to get serious about scoring, than what we've had.

1.20.2015: Miroslav Klose Would Make Columbus A Contender, But I Still Find That Dreamland Unlikely

The home opener against Toronto FC on March 14th might be a big time event now with Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley coming to town.

It's unlikely to be because the Columbus Crew have signed a star to lead their line. But, wait a star linked to Columbus (with no facts or resources for said rumor) Go to link!

Who started this, well the German Bild mentioned Klose contact for Klose with Major League Soccer..

And then Crew fans ran with it taking to Twitter, and proclaiming Columbus, home of the Nordecke and German Village, must be one of the MLS teams in for the German (well, sort of German) Miroslav Klose.

Let's just say when you've scored the most goals in World Cup history, and 71 goals in 137 appearances for Germany, your still in demand at 36. To get in on the fun #KloseToColumbus
Well, at least Berhalter, didn't laugh and/or spit out his morning coffee or cappuccino.

The 36 year old Klose is looking for a move; as he is currently not enjoying life at Lazio, where he described himself, in December, as an "old table thrown into the cellar."

In addition, The German Bild said that Klose will not return to his former club, current relegation battlers Werder Bremen, or to any Bundesliga team. But, instead his destination is likely to be the United States.

But, where to?

If Columbus is really giving it a go, signing Klose and the much more likely Argentine right back Grana would put them at 9 internationals (1 over the limit).

If that's the case the Columbus Crew would have to trade for an international slot; or at the end of preseason, part ways with the draftee that has impressed less out of Sergio Campbell or Lev-Ari; Or Federico Higuain, or one of the Crew's two aforementioned draft picks may be very Klose to a green card.

Either way it's fun to dream.

Having someone like Klose wearing the Crew jersey would be a honor. Also, Lev-Ari, who I think will surprise and make the team, is a poacher who could learn a lot from a year or two behind a great poacher in Klose. That may not be a bad idea.

In addition, if your trying to jumpstart a new brand, having the top goalscorer in World Cup history in your shirt isn't a bad way to do it.

But, despite the Crew's new Bundesliga-like logo and the fact that Lazio isn't exactly Roma, Juventus, or AC Milan, therefore Klose might not demand to be in the largest market; I would still expect him to go to a bigger market with a DP slot left, like a New York Red Bull or even perhaps the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Still after a nice move for fullback Chris Klute, who knows what Berhalter and Precourt may have up their sleeves.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

1.13.2015: Mix Diskerud & His Yankee Hats Sign For NYCFC

Major League Soccer putting a big name in a big city, well I be damned.

Mix Diskerud looks lottery winning happy though signing with NYCFC (above). A club with so much history and passion. In fact, Mixy looks like a seven year old child that got the toy he wanted for Christmas. Quite. Because he now works at Yankee Stadium and can get all the Yankee hats that he can get his super cool, fruit juggling hands on.

As you may be aware, at one point this Summer, the Columbus Crew were excruciatingly close to signing U.S. international Mix Diskerud. But, it didn't happen so better things can for Diskerud and his Yankee fitted's.

A Columbus Clippers hat just doesn't have the same appeal. The same swag, you feel?

Well, don't show Mix this strictly fitted, Clipper hat.

Overall, Mix Diskerud has spent $2,219 dollars and 26 cents on Yankee hats. Well, that's not just a little OCD, can't think of any better use for over two grand.
No Pirates fitted though, isn't that hat 101?
When he comes to Columbus, we should make a big hat tifo that says? Post your thoughts @CrewtureFanzine

Monday, January 12, 2015

1.12.2015: Crewture's Crew SC 2015 Mock Draft Analysis, First Round

Gregg Berhalter needs to do much, much better in this draft. Columbus had the same #14 pick last year and picked Ben Sweat, who played once in the U.S. Open Cup, and then was shipped off to the Dayton Dutch Lions. The other picks were not much better. Fifi Baiden (42 overall) was sent to the same place and was released by Columbus after just one season. Adam Bedell (45 overall), scored two goals in sixteen appearances, but wouldn't be called an answer up front yet. At #14 again this Thursday, Berhalter should look for a player that can come in and make an impact.
Strikers are undervalued in the draft and usually written off, unless they're that one player being hyped. The Crew may find an impact player at that position.
Pick #14: Sagi Lev Ari, Dzenan Catic, or Miguel Aguilar-
Everyone is saying that it would be best for the Columbus Crew to pick up some defensive talent in the 2015 MLS Draft, that can prosper under Michael Parkhurst and Emmanuel Pogatetz.

But, I don't see anyone extremely worthwhile that is going to make it to pick #14, unless Ramon Martin del Campo (who's had a sluggish combine) drops that far. And even then he might not be a sure thing or worth it.

U.S. U-23 Ramon Martin del Campo, who was seen as the most likely center back in this draft to succeed, could either not make it to #14 or be bypassed by all (opinions change when team officials finally see someone firsthand).

He could be selected by #3 pick Montreal Impact, who are in need of center backs. If not, it may be hard for #4 San Jose to pass up their own product (they know del Campo best, have seen him firsthand, and can make a decision based on all of his work). Martin del Campo played his PDL ball at San Jose Earthquakes.

If San Jose says "no thanks" despite all of their hands on time with del Campo, it may be a while.

Axel Sjolberg would be available at #14. But, the big argument for him going to Columbus sits on the whole he's Swedish and Berhalter coached in Sweden and knows the language thing, but really Sjolberg can go anywhere because he obviously knows English as well (played three years at Marquette).

It's kind of a weak overall argument to sign someone based on their language, instead the focus should be on does the talent fit into the system Berhalter plays?

Sjolberg reminds me defensively of Tyson Wahl, if so he may not be the best type of defender for possessing the ball out of the back and working it up.

Sjolberg is a tall, thin, not overally quick center back with perhaps a little more coordination and skill on the ball if compared to Wahl. He's a much better threat offensively on corners, a good header of the ball both in the offensive and defensive end.

And, actually his 6'7 frame and the havoc he could create in the box might make him more useful as a Jan Koller-type target forward. You think I'm joking, but in need of a goal in the last 10 minutes, he could be good in the box.

That was the most impressive part of his video for me as a defender (as some of his highlight interceptions and tackles took a friendly bounce to a teammate instead of an opponent):

Either way, I'm not convinced that the Columbus Crew's biggest need in the draft is central defense or that the Crew will find what they want in a center back apprentice at #14. I don't think the Crew will go #14 at right back two years in a row or there is an attractive enough left back.

Instead it could be argued that forward is just as big, or the biggest need. Look at up top, we have Kei Kamara, Aaron Schoenfeld, and Adam Bedell.

The only decent threat up top out of the three of them is possibly Kei Kamara, 52 MLS goals in 193 appearances. But, it's been a while since Kamara has been in MLS or played (he hasn't played a competitive game since last Spring). Since 2013, Kamara has only scored 5 goals in 36 appearances in England.

Kamara could come back and not put much into the net, who do we turn to then?

Compared to striker, at least at center back we have two strong starters in Michael Parkhurst and Emmanuel Pogatetz, with Tyson Wahl receiving a lot of minutes as well last season. Further, Berhalter if he needs center back depth has had a lot more success acquiring talent at center back than he has had at striker. So far Berhalter has acquired  Parkhurst, Pogatetz, and Giancarlo Gonzalez at center back.

As a result, perhaps it's easier to attract a high quality defender to Columbus. So, what would stop Berhalter from acquiring another (younger) center back before the 2015 season, if necessary?

On the other hand, if it was so easy for Berhalter to sign a serious striker, you think he would've waited this long to do it? So, why not try to unearth one in the draft?

A few intrigue me from what I've read and from their stats.

Sagi Lev Ari is intriguing and would be available. 42 goals in 64 games for Cal St. Northridge says to me pure finisher. He's 25, has been in the Isreali Army, he's mature, and he's an obvious finisher type forward from his video.

Not every goal is pretty, but for Columbus it's been difficult for most of their strikers to finish chances (straightforward or not). I think Lev Ari is capable of putting what are midfield and Higuain sets up into the back of the net, in a simple manner.

Dzenan Catic is also another, 63 goals in 47 games for (NAIA) Davenport is not only impressive, but ridiculous. I've covered three NAIA Championships and it's still a good level. Someone in Lev Ari or Dzenan Catic that has stuck the ball in the back of the net so many times will have confidence that they can do it anywhere (or at least more than a striker that never has). Either way, I think both would be more prolific compared to Schoenfeld and Bedell, and perhaps Kamara who's only been a 1 goal every 4 games striker in MLS.

In another manner, if Columbus are looking to take the pain away from not acquiring Cedrick. Miguel Aguilar, if he makes it to #14 with the combine he's had, also is worth a look and then some. He's listed as a forward, but is more likely a winger and could be a heck of a rookie replacement for the loss of Bernardo Anor if his combine form can continue. Aguilar could also be converted to a back position possibly.

The thing is Lev-Ari or Catic would be an upgrade more than likely over our other forwards after Kei Kamara, and may be more useful than Kamara now (who knows?).  Even if our midfield is good, Aguilar would improve the squad and make it better.

On the other hand, I don't know if any defender available will be an answer to our back line depth issue.

Trade Up: Columbus doesn't pick again until the second round, #35. I could see trading up into the #15-#25 range for Aaron Simmons or Jose Rivas if Berhalter thinks one of them could slot in for Waylon Francis when he's at the Gold Cup.

Gregg Berhalter likes guy's with versatility and that give him options. Simmons is a guy that would give Berhalter options, a player that has played central defense and midfield for UCLA, but with his size and speed could easily be converted to an outside back in MLS and would likely be a more natural fit there. If Berhalter values Simmons, and is going the safe route in this draft, I can see him going as well at #14 (more likely than Sjolberg who doesn't really fit into a possession type, out of the back play that Berhalter likes). But, Simmons also only started 16 out of 24 games for UCLA in his Senior year, so is he a #14 pick?

Either way, in the draft expect the unexpected. Not very often, past the first few picks, does the mock drafts go as planned. So, that's why I wouldn't be surprised if the Crew address forward depth instead.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

1.8.2015: Osasuna May Have to Part With Cedrick for Other Reinforcements


It's the middle of the Spain's Segunda Division season. Osasuna are currently 11th, 5 points off from a promotion playoff, 6 points ahead of relegation. Relegated last year, Osasuna are going to have to shake the team up, move a couple people if they want to return to La Liga. They need to make up for their goal differential, they need more goals in the second half of their season to balance an atrocious defense. Think Liverpool last season, scoring a lot more is the only way to success. Their 29 goals allowed over the first half of the year only beats out relegation battlers CE Sabadell (32 allowed), Barcelona B (34 allowed), and Albacete Balompie (36 allowed). Their goal forwarded amount is 25, which isn't bad but the 9th best output. 9th best scoring, with 19th best defense, if that continues Osasuna won't be anywhere near the promotion spots or promotional-playoff hunt. They'll stick around their current position of 11th out of 22 teams. If it gets worse, they could be in the relegation hunt, 19th place UE Llagostera is only six points back.

A local journalist embedded with the team wrote the most insightful article a few days back; as according to Natalia Perez with News of Navarra, Osasuna wants to strengthen their squad in the winter market (no surprise after that intro) and can only do so if outgoing players leave early in the month. In addition, Osasuna are trying to lessen the amount of players on their books that count as internationals. But, Cedrick isn't exactly the international that Osasuna had in mind to be on the way out. Or Osasuna just says that as they haven't made a firm decision on which internationals they can part ways with and which ones they need to hold onto.

Osasuna has said in several articles that they value Cedrick's speed, they see it as a difference maker in a team that lacks pace. Because of this Osasuna are focusing on possibly moving other internationals. At least, that's what they're hinting at in this article, and have been by driving their valuation of Cedrick up, through mentioning his use to the squad.

The article implies instead of moving Cedrick...
Osasuna wants to (move) make a decision on the futures of Cameroonian defensive midfielder Raoul Loe, Iranian striker Karim Ansarifard, and Algerian center back Liassine Cadamuro.

BUT, the article also mentions that Osasuna still haven't made up their minds on the future of Cedrick. So, Osasuna has said no BUT not loudly or firmly. There's a theme of this, in this article Osasuna says they've rejected the deal, UNLESS they get a bigger deal to convince the club to part ways with Cedrick.

Osasuna has time to make a deal (about a week) so they're just posturing for the best move they can make for Cedrick. But, either way, Osauna's needs to make room for other targets, especially international targets.

So, in the end they may have no choice but to accept the Crew's original offer.

Still, let's play Osasuna's game for a while. Let's say Osasuna are looking for more money from Columbus, because they value Cedrick more compared to the other three internationals. Let's say they truly rather keep Cedrick around because of his speed. Yet if no one else listed above (essentially on the transfer list) goes then Osasuna needs to part ways with Cedrick; especially before The African Cup of Nations, or they have virtually no way to improve their team as they desire and reach promotion.

That's if Osasuna believes they have a target (or targets) that can get them closer to promotion than Cedrick (and other mentioned internationals) can.

Overall, Cedrick has made 14 appearances in 19 matches, which could seem pretty substantial as he's made a mark in nearly 75% percent of the games. Yet, most were either as a substitute or an early exit as he has only logged 697 minutes; if Cedrick started all fourteen games he would be nearly double that at 1260 minutes. He has three assists, but Cedrick's supposed to be a dangerous winger. His three assists equate to a contribution in 1 out of every 8.3 Osasuna goals. Despite potential, that output should be expendable for a team in Osasuna's situation.

But, that depends on how Osasuna expects to improve to 6th or better.

To do so wouldn't be with defensive acquistions, it's probably not the best move to integrate someone into the back four in the middle of the season, unless your pretty confident in that person. If it goes south your not in 11th, your in 19th. Instead, Osasuna's best chance to move up is to improve their offense by acquiring international transfers that up the goal total amount.

This is why Cedrick could leave.

Osasuna shouldn't have a problem with letting go of a winger that contributes to 1 out of every 8.3 goals for the club, for one that contributes to 2 or 2.5 out of every 8 goals. Or moving him for another international striker to come in and possibly help score more goals. Since Cedrick is only getting about 1/3 the minutes at his position, 697 of a total 1710 minutes, Osasuna could just replace him with the winger currently on the team sharing time with Cedrick anyway.

To me it sounds like if there is no interest in the other three, they'll have to accept Columbus's deal to try to improve their own team. I'm sure a few days before January 17th we'll hear one way or the other.  January 17th Cedrick is on duty with the Democratic Republic of Congo in the African Cup of Nations, and that will last two to three weeks. A bad month could push Osasuna further back and Cedrick can't even contribute. So, it might be wise for Osasuna to try to find someone that can.

Betis favors the option of Cedrick going to Columbus (probably because it gets Cedrick off their books) but Osasuna has to accept it as well. And although some news outlets have reported that Osasuna has rejected the offer outright, I think there's a lot of thinking (like I tried to do above) going on.

1.7.2015: Cedrick Update

I come over? Maybe, maybe not?

On January 3rd multiple reports had the Columbus Crew putting an offer down for 22 year old Real Betis/Osasuna winger Cedrick. No idea what the offer is or the compensation for Real Betis or Osasuna, yet FutbolMLS stated Tuesday that Cedrick would be fine with trying his luck with MLS or respecting any decision the two Spanish clubs make, but doesn't mention a source. Vavel Spain said Monday that Osasuna isn't interested in departing with Cedrick and Cedrick isn't interested in a move to Major League Soccer. On top of that, Osasuna rejected the initial offer.

Even if FutbolMLS ran across another source on the internet, Osasuna isn't budging either way.

Osasuna doesn't believe they're getting enough compensation, in the middle of their season, to find a suitable replacement. They would also have to integrate that replacement into their team.

In addition, Osasuna values Cedrick and would like to keep him on for the remainder of the original loan deal that expires June 30th.

Sounds dead in the water, but possibly a solution can be reached with a better deal, if Vavel's reporting that Cedrick "frowns on a move to MLS" is pure B.S.; Vavel is pretty legitimate so it's probably not.