The Crew's training camp opens next week; last season is a receding memory as the fans can get excited for a new round of games. Of course there is always change in an offseason, but it's a chance for supporters to see some new faces in a Crew uniform. Therein lies the problem, there aren't really any new faces in the Black and Gold. The team has made three signings this offseason.
Some of the top teams in the Eastern Conference haven't stood still. Kansas City brought in Benny Feilhaber and designated player Claudio Bieler. New York traded for Jámison Olave and Fabián Espíndola. They also acquired playmaker Juninho Pernambucano. The Fire traded for Joel Lindpere.
The Union, also looking to get into the playoffs, reacquired Sébastien Le Toux and added Jeff Parke and Conor Casey.
While others around the league have been busy, the Crew brought in the heralded prospect Wil Trapp, Chad Barson, and the vagabond journeyman Tyson Wahl. None should be key members of the 2013 Crew.
A quiet offseason isn't necessarily bad, the Supporters Shield winning San Jose Earthquakes have made just three signings as well, but they are starting from a much stronger position.
The Black and Gold released ten players, including a starting right back, a first choice defensive midfielder, and veteran depth around the lineup. Only some of the depth along the back line has been replaced. There are wide open holes at left back, right back, defensive midfield, and left midfield as the incumbent is on the trading block.
Yes, the technical staff can slot in players at each of these positions. Danny O'Rourke can play well at defensive mid, but has struggled to remain healthy. Tyson Wahl would get the nod at left back as he's left footed, in a move reminiscent of the Eric Denton era. Josh Williams is a fine athlete, but one who struggles with the nuance needed for the wing positions, but is likely the team's current right back.
These are all second choices on an ideal Crew team. This is the current starting lineup for the 2013 preseason Crew. You can certainly point to the midseason improvements last year. Federico Higuain and Jairo Arrieta were important acquisitions, but it also belies the point that they were midseason acquisitions. They didn't have a full preseason to develop a rapport with the rest of the team; they had to learn on the fly.
The 2013 Crew is facing the same prospects. Several foreign signings are rumored, but still not announced. The've been tangled by the vagaries of international soccer transfers. Massive player turnover (a full third of the roster) means that new partnerships will have to be struck and allowed to grow.
The idea is that they will mesh into a playoff caliber team if given time. Much like 2013 will be Higuain and Arrieta's time to shine now they have a full year together, 2014 may be the year of the Crew's new signings lead them to the playoffs and beyond.