The Massive Report staff takes a guess at where the Crew end up in 2013. Viewpoints diverge; the picks range to a bullish 61 points to a muddling 48 and a playoff miss. There is a little for both the optimists and pessimists. There is one thing all the staff agrees with, this team doesn't go anywhere without Higuain.
Patrick Guldan - Managing Editor
Record: 15-10-9 (54 points, 5th in the East)
How the season plays out: The Crew struggle early as it often looks like a team of strangers. The team starts coming together in May with Higuain leading the team on a run. The Black and Gold hang around the 4th and 5th spots in the conference, never quite looking like they'll drop out of the race, but not threatening the frontrunners.
They do win a playoff series, behind Higuain's antics, but are bounced in the Conference Semis
MVP: Higuain, he's the real deal as he racks up both goals (off of free kicks) and assists (off of corners) while making the Crew offense look a little like showtime.
Biggest Surprise: Ethan Finlay is starting at right wing by June and is the missing piece to the Crew's offensive struggles.
Biggest Disappointment The makeshift defense still leaks goals as Glauber and Wahl are a little too uneven. It will sink the team's rise up the Eastern Conference.
Larry Johnson - Staff Writer
15-15-4 (49 pts, 6th in East -3 Goal Diff)
How the season plays out: The Crew will appear hot and cold this year because they will be able to handle lesser teams regularly but struggle with clubs equal to or better. Over the past 3 years the Crew tend to start slow, do well in the middle and taper off at the end. Looking over the way the schedule is laid out there is no reason to think that will change this year (though, the Crew really have an opportunity to come charging out of the gates with 3 wins). I think that the Crew will fly up the table in June/July, possibly climbing to as high as 2nd or 3rd but struggle greatly late August and September. The Sept 14 (MTL), 21 (CHI) and 29 (FCD) games will likely be must wins to make the playoffs.
MVP: Higuain. There really isn't another choice here right now, the attack is dependent on him and he has the talent to deliver. I think Williams and Arrieta have a shot at as well.
Biggest Surprise: Change(s) amongst the assistant coaching / technical staff during the season - also, Eric Wynalda will address speculation about coming to Columbus during the USA v. MEX qualifier.
Biggest Disappointment: Overreacting / correcting. Crew will play games safe with 2 DMs and struggle to score goals - than experiment with just one to try and chase goals - then go back to starting 2 different DMs. Rinse - repeat.
Rick Gethin - Staff Writer
Record: 17-9-8 (59 points)
How the season plays out: Led by Federico "The Higuain", the club gets off to a decent start as the chemistry gels among the players. Although they don't run the Conference table, they know that "slow and steady" wins the race. Hence, they stay mid-table in the Conference throughout the season. They make it to the Conference Championship before getting bounced.
The intangibles at play: Does Robert Warzycha settle on a starting XI versus interchanging players all season long? Will the memory of Kirk Urso drive them to the MLS Cup? Was Higuain's statement of "All of the Playoff" a statement of intent or a wish?
MVP: "The Higuain". The little Argentine grows into his role as the leader of the club. The parallels to GBS are striking. The Force is strong with this one.
Biggest Surprise: Chad Marshall stays healthy and helps to shore up a previously, at times, porous defense.
Biggest Disappointment: Tony Tchani is still Tony Tchani. Poor passing decisions are still an issue for him.
Sam Fahmi - Media Editor
Record: 16-5-13 (61pts)
How the season plays out: The Crew convert some of the losses from last season to ties. They stay with the leading pack till around August, when they will fall back a bit and not be able to catch up enough to make it to the playoffs. Any success for the Crew this year will hinge on the team staying healthy and other teams either falling a part or catching injury bugs. If the Crew can get off to a hot start like the 08 team did, there is no telling what could happen. The FO and technical management may have caught lightning in a bottle again.
Oh, and the reserves repeat as champs for the 3rd straight year.
MVP: Higuain, yeah, it's really hard to pick anyone else. He's like the quarter back, pretty much everything goes through him. Considering the scoring abilities of the striker core and the midfielders, he may rack up a record number of assists.
Biggest Surprise: The young talent will step up in a big way and really help this team out. Players like Ryan Finley and Ethan Finlay, Justin Meram, Drew Becki, and Chad Barson fill in when needed.
Biggest Disappointment I HATE disappointments, and as much as I think that this team has improved over last year, their chances of making the playoffs is still 50/50. The Crew will continue to play below their ability for one reason or another.