It won't be long now. Columbus Crew SC kicks off the regular season on Sunday, putting the disappointment of the 2015 MLS Cup Final behind them. The team is ready to build on the success of last year, looking to get back to the Final and take care of business this time around.
While most of the core group of players return, there were some who departed and there are some new faces in town. Head coach Gregg Berhalter and his players believe the team is stronger than last year's group, but we won't know until we see them play.
Today we asked the staff to give us one outside-the-box prediction for this 2016. It can be about the team as whole, one player, a few players, maybe even a new player.. Here is what they said.
Ola Kamara breaks into the lineup as the rotating danger man. He's listed as a striker, but he'll find time giving Kei a break and getting starts on the left and right. He'll score towards double digits and prove hard to keep out of the lineup.
IF this team plays to it's potential, and some things roll it's way, I could see this team winning the treble (MLS Cup, U.S. Open Cup, and the Supporters Shield). I know, you want to know what I'm smoking, right?? ;-)
Every year the Crew SC players and coaches say they care about the U.S. Open Cup, but the team continues to flame out of the competition early. It is certainly secondary to doing well in MLS, but I believe this team finally has the depth to make a deep run. You'll see some other names shine in a run to the U.S. Open Cup Final, hosted in Columbus and won by the Black & Gold.
Is there even a box with this team? I feel like everything is just wide open. Outside the box would be that they actually play consistently good defense this season, and I'm not comfortable doing that. I honestly feel that anything from conference champs or MLS Cup champions to barely scraping into the playoffs would be "inside the box." Anything from 10 goals to 25 goals for Kamara would be "inside the box." Let's face it, whether the team takes a step forward or comes way back down to earth, it's all kind of "inside the box."
So...Cedrick Mabwati will put up an All-Star-caliber season and Kei Kamara and Ola Kamara will combine for 30+ goals, sparking a Kamara & Kamara sitcom in which there is a lot of goal scoring, who's-on-first confusion and related hilarity.
Steve Clark will struggle and will, at some point in the season, be dropped (if only temporarily) for Brad Stuver. Crew SC will look at bringing in a veteran MLS keeper in the summer, but ultimately will stick with what they have until the end of the year.
I think Ethan Finlay's call-up to the USMNT betters him fundamentally as a transitional player and he tops both his regular season goal total of 12 and assist total of 13 from 2015.
Crew SC fans come to love the new Minion/Calou uniforms. They become Iconic and the most memorable part of 2016