Duka expected to step up in 2012.
The Columbus Crew now has 3 weeks of preseason in the books, including a week of outdoor training in Florida. The team has trained and played one intrateam scrimmage before kicking off thier slate of preseason games against Malmö FF on Wednesday.
Warzycha, as usual, has been tight lipped about who will line up where and even what formation he will use. However, the first team appears to be nearly set and only a few key questions surround the team. The preseason schedule will shuffle this list, but here is a look at what the team depth chart looks like before preseason game number one.
Right Back: 1. Sebastian Miranda, 2. Danny O'Rourke, 3. Carlos Mendes, 4. Korey Veeder, 5. Aubrey Perry
Miranda returns for his second season as the clear starter once again. O'Rourke and Mendes can fill in if needed. Veeder and Perry likely will battle for a roster spot.
Center Back: 1. Chad Marshall, 2. Julius James, 3. Carlos Mendes, 4. Eric Gehrig, 5. Danny O'Rourke, 6. Josh Williams
Marshall and James formed an excellent partnership last year and will be backed up by Mendes. Gehrig and O'Rourke provide even more depth. Williams could be the odd man off the roster.
Left Back: 1. Rich Balchan, 2. O'Rourke, 3. Shaun Francis, 4. Lance Liang, 5. Jamie Finch
There is no clear starter among the Crew's left back options and the team is still looking for other options. Balchan played well before his injury. O'Rourke can also play there. Francis will have to return to form to claim a spot. Laing was first XI in NASL and could be a surprise.
Defensive Midfield: 1. O'Rourke, 2. Balchan, 3. Tony Tchani, 4. Kirk Urso, 5. Cole Grossman, 6. Kevan George
Again, the Crew look for a starter. O'Rourke and Balchan are at home with Tchani also having the skillset to play d-mid. Hopefully one of them can stay healthy. Urso, Grossman, and George are fighting it out for reserve minutes. Urso has looked good in small sided action and may move up the depth chart.
Central Midfield: 1. Milovan Mirosevic, 2. Tchani, 3. Dilly Duka, 4. Eddie Gaven 5. Kirk Urso
Mirosevic will start for the Crew, it's just a question of where. He would be the starter in a 4-4-2, paired with a d-mid. Tchani also has the range and skills to play in this spot if Milo plays further up the field.
Attacking Midfield: 1. Mirosevic, 2. Duka, 3. Gaven
Mirosevic is again the best player to sit under the striker, much like Duka did in the playoff game against the Rapids. Gaven often drifts in centrally from right wing and could easily play here.
Right Midfield: 1. Gaven, 2. Ethan Finlay, 3. Ben Speas
Gaven is best on the right, but the team expects big things from Finlay. Finlay could grab the spot with a good camp, allowing Gaven to move to attacking mid. Speas is a project and will hone his skills in reserve matches and ocassionally make the 18.
Left Midfield: 1. Duka, 2. Bernardo Anor, 3. Finlay, 4. Justin Meram, 5. Speas
Duka has had a tremendous offseason with the Generation Adidas team in the Nederlands and with the U-23 team, often playing wide left. Anor showed flashes of talent, but lacked consistency. Finlay can play on the left. Meram played on the left side last year, but shouldn't have to this season. Speas, again, will get more seasoning.
Forward: 1. Emilio Renteria, 2. Olman Vargas, 3. Mirosevic, 4. Tom Heinemann, 5. Meram, 6. Aaron Horton, 7. Andrew Bulls, 8. Darren Amoo
The team has a lot of forwards, but not a lot of proven scoring punch. It makes sense that the team is going after a Designated Player. Renteria changes games, but injuries have limited him. Vargas plays a target role and could work well with the mobile Renteria. Mirosevic is a clinical finisher who can play forward. Heinemann and Meram return after low key seasons. It's possible that the team could cut ties if they don't improve.Horton struggled to make the 18 and appears headed to more reserve team action. Bulls and Amoo will have to impress quickly to make the team.