While Columbus Crew SC's attentions have been turned to the playoff hunt, for the past couple weeks I've noticed something more ignominious. Columbus is within reaching distance of the worst record in team history. Crew SC needs to get to 36 points in order to clear the bar set by the transitional 2006 team that Sigi Schmid was starting to build.
A word about those records, they aren't official. MLS had the shootout from 1996 to 1999. They then dropped the shootout, but added 10 minute overtime from 2000 to 2003. I retroactively changed the rules and reinstituted ties for those eight seasons. Crew SC's 15-17 record with a 4-5 record in shootouts becomes 11-12-9 as I applied a splash of white paint to my personal record keeping. I also translate to points per game given the range of MLS season lengths.
That 2006 team finished with a 8-15-9 record for 33 points and a 1.03 PPG ranking. Joseph Ngwenya and Jason Garey were the co-scoring leaders with five goals a piece. Ironman Eddie Gaven played in a team high 30 of the team's 32 games and led the team with four assists. Frankie Hejduk suffered a torn ACL on the eve of being named to the 2006 U.S. World Cup team.
Notoriously, the 2006 Crew started five goalkeepers due to injury. Jon Busch began the season. His mid-game injury brought rookie Andy Gruenebaum into the game. He wasn't able to start in the next game and Schmid turned to recently retired Dan Popik for a game. He gave up five goals to D.C. United before retiring again. The team traded for Real Salt Lake reservist Noah Palmer. He got a run out of 10 games. Then Bill Gaudette played 11 times, then Gruenebaum got a run out of two games to close out the season. A special nod to Dom Jakubek who didn't appear for that team, but still picked up a championship with the Sacramento Republic in 2014.
Not surprisingly for a roster that shallow and troubled by injury, the 2006 team went winless in 12 games from June to late August. The 2006 team was a nadir for Crew soccer. Schmid retooled the roster in 2007, and improved to 1.23 points per game. The 2008 team was the best in team history, by far, and the 2009 and 2010 seasons are in the top five.
The 2016 team doesn't suggest the same trend. This season wasn't born out of a new coach's total roster overhaul. This same group of players had made the playoffs in 2014 and 2015 seasons with records that were a solid improvement over the post Guillermo Barros Schelotto trough. The players and staff consistently talk about the team being better than their record, but they are on pace to finish 15 points worse than last year after starting with the same 11 starters.
That leaves Berhalter and the rest of the technical staff with a big question this offseason, where to go from here? Federico Higuain will be 32 next season and has become injury prone. Harrison Afful and Michael Parkhurst are two starters that are at least 30 years old as well. The rest of the lineup isn't exceedingly young with field players Tony Tchani, Ethan Finlay, Justin Meram, and Waylon Francis into the back half of their 20's. Their window at the top is a year shorter now.
The team will have a lot of allocation money and a high draft pick to rebuild the roster. Crew SC fans can only hope that the 2016 team is looked back at the primordial version of an MLS Cup winner. That will take the right players and luck identifying them because unlike a decade ago, the players on the roster have tasted success and many are in their prime. Figuring out who stays or goes will be a bigger challenge.