The Columbus Crew did not reach the lofty expectations many had for them in the preseason. They failed to make the playoffs in 2016 after losing in the MLS Cup Final in 2015. They were middle of the pack in goals scored and second worst in goals conceded. They’ve retooled their back line while keeping their attack in place. Even with the lack of results in games, they provided several solid fantasy options and should have a couple guys that will be in many fantasy teams again this year.
Columbus brought in Ghana international Jonathan Mensah and Finland international Jukka Raitala to strengthen their back line. They shipped out Michael Parkhurst and lost Mohammed Saied to the expansion draft. They replaced Clark in goal with Zack Steffen, who has been part of the US youth teams at several ages. Mohammed Abu will have to force either Wil Trapp or Tony Tchani out to get playing time.
The Crew play a 4-2-3-1 with overlapping fullbacks and wingers who pinch inside. They held the highest share of possession in the league in 2016 and had the highest pass completion rate. They also completed the most crosses, through balls, and short passes in the league – all potentially giving us plenty of bonus points. Ola Kamara was the beneficiary of those through balls after bursting onto the scene to replace a petulant Kei Kamara, who forced a move and landed in New England. The questions are around the defense as they conceded the second most goals last year.
Expected Columbus line-up at time of writing
The Crew line-up is pretty set. There’s not much question to start the season as to who is the first choice 11.
Assuming Berhalter sticks to his style of play, we can expect the attack to remain about the same as last year. All four of the Crew attackers deserve a look and their prices will dictate who is the most attractive. Federioc Higuain is on the decline and Ethan Finlay, Kamara, and Justin Meram have all been streaky over their time with the Crew. Any improvement in the standings will have to come from the defense. New back lines almost always take time to figure out their rotations, so I’d probably avoid them to start the season. Playoffs are reasonable, but the Crew aren’t favorites for silverware.