When following a team, sometimes fans have questions. We at Massive Report sometimes have answers to those questions. I decided it was time to start getting those answers out by starting a periodic mailbag. If you have a question, you can send it via Email, Twitter, Facebook, tell any of the Massive Report staff when you see them out and about, or ask them in the comment section below.
For this first QnA, there were a few very similar themed questions, so I looked to answer today.
Why is Tony Tchani still playing? - @tony_long17
This is a question I received several times due to the disdain Columbus Crew fans have towards the central midfielder. There are certainly reasons to be critical of Tchani. At 6'4", 185-pounds, the physical specimen plays as if he is much smaller. Despite his size, he is not generally a threat on set pieces and rarely shoots from outside the 18-yard box.
With that said, Tchani showed some his abilities over the last few weeks and possibly halted some his haters. Whether it was the absence of Wil Trapp and Federico Higuain - the two players who generally control the game for the Black and Gold - or because he's finally comfortable in this system, Tchani took on a bigger role in the possession and distribution part of the Columbus attack.
In both U.S. Open Cup games, Tchani was arguably the best player on the pitch. He has extended that into his MLS play, combining more with his teammates and allowing Trapp to get forward and be a bigger part of the offense. In a recent conversation with Tchani, he told me he doesn't consider himself an offensive or defensive player, but someone who goes box to box, making things easier on his teammates. These things are not always noticed by fans, but are appreciated by teammates.
One thing is for certain, unless the Crew have plans on signing Xavi or another center midfielder, Tchani is in Berhalter's plans for the remainder of the season.
Aside from forward (which everyone knows is a problem), what position on the [Crew] roster is most in need of an upgrade? - @V1andRotate
This begins the transfer talk section of QnA.
This question gave me a lot to think about. On paper, this team has a lot of talent and depth at almost every position due to the versatility of the players. We've seen players play out of position this year and for the most part successfully.
What I came up with is the outside back position.
This is not an easy role to fill in Gregg Berhalter's system; you have to be involved in the attack but also able to get back and cover defensively. Waylon Francis and Josh Williams were the first choice backs until the World Cup began and injuries occurred. Since then, Berhalter has used Chad Barson, Ben Sweat, Hector Jimenez, Bernardo Anor, and Michael Parkhurst as outside backs.
Francis did well, especially offensively, before joining Costa Rica. Williams was serviceable, but was clearly still learning the position and getting in the necessary shape. He is a natural center back who has the athleticism to play anywhere along the back line. Barson is the most natural of the group, but is still a young player in MLS. Sweat, Jimenez (who is out with an injured knee), and Anor were played there to provide the necessary offense. Sweat has only appeared in an Open Cup game and Anor was severely exposed defensively by Marvell Wynne in last Friday's Colorado Rapids game.
All of these players have done enough to merit playing, but none of them have demonstrated everything necessary to cement the spot. Francis is probably the closest, but his ability defensively is called into question at times.
If there is a position to upgrade other than forward, it would have to be here.
Berhalter mentioned bringing a striker in during the summer... Who are three that [the Crew] could be looking at? - @TrentRMiller
I'm hopeful for Neymar, Gonzalo Higuain, and Karim Benzema. Just kidding... sort of.
I'm going to cop out a bit here and not actually give three specific examples, as there are too many strikers in the world, but more a general answer of what the Black and Gold should be looking for.
In a recent conversation with colleague Nate Beckman, he mentioned a player like Miroslav Klose or Ruud Van Nistelrooy. Unfortunately, Van Nistelrooy has been retired for years and Klose just recently resigned with Lazio.
The point is, a player of that mold would fit best into the Black and Gold's style of play. As Crew fans noticed with Dominic Oduro, Berhlater is not looking for a lot of speed from his front man. A striker for Columbus needs to be able to hold up the ball, combine in the possession game, and finish in front of goal.
A player like this does not necessarily need to be young, which might help the Crew get a better price or a high profile player.
Fanendo Adi, who went on loan to Copenhagen to the Portland Timbers before being signed permanently, is the type of player in which the Black and Gold should look. The 6'4" Designated Player has played in eight games for Portland and scored four goals and added two assists since joining earlier this season.
Berhalter has sent mixed signals this year, first saying they would look for players once the transfer window opened, then stating he was happy with his group. On Thursday, the head coach said they have considered a couple of players and are working on things, so we'll see if anything comes of that.
With little Transfer Window action likely for the Crew do you see the focus shifting towards a build for '15? - @SpicyCalzone
In short, yes. It would not surprise me if Columbus do bring a player in during the summer, but ultimately I think they're looking towards next year in terms of transfers.
The main reason I believe this is Berhalter's consistent talk of performance over results. The head coach has a plan for this team that goes beyond this season and he is continuing to build as the year goes on. As with other small market teams in this league, it can take a few years to build a winner (Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake are great examples) and that's what Berhalter understands.
Here is what I think the thought process is at One Black and Gold Drive: there is a three year plan here to build this team into a winner. Anything that happens this year would be a bonus as the franchise looks to rebuild. With the rebrand coming in the offseason, year two of the Berhalter-Precourt era would be a great time for this team to really start to succeed.
If you look at what Berhalter did in his first offseason, the head coach was wildly successful. Michael Parkhurst and Giancarlo Gonzalez have been rocks in the center of the Crew defense when both are available. Waylon Francis attracted enough attention with his play to make his country's World Cup team. Steve Clark is quietly becoming one of the best shot stoppers in MLS. Daniel Paladini has looked good in limited time this season due to injury. Hector Jimenez was having a breakout season before an MCL injury last week.
Berhalter likely will not continue to bat 1.000, but you can tell he knows what he's doing in the transfer market. It is much easier to sign players during the offseason, with more time to focus on identifying players and acquiring them as opposed to doing it while coaching on a daily basis.
This is not to say there won't be another signing - potentially of quality - in the summer window, but I believe the focus will be once the season is complete.