We’ve reached Major League Soccer’s annual Decision Day and it will be just that for Columbus Crew SC. The Black & Gold have missed three consecutive opportunities to clinch a spot in the postseason. What once seemed like an inevitability now comes down to the final game of 2018 against Minnesota United.
The Loons have been eliminated from playoff contention for some time but come to MAPFRE Stadium looking to play spoiler. Only the second ever meeting between the two clubs will be an important one for Columbus in determining if there will be a postseason in Central Ohio. A win and Crew SC is. A tie or a loss and it will depend on other results.
To get a better sense of what to expect from United, we reached out to our friends at E Pluribus Loonum and spoke with Jacob Schneider.
Questions for E Pluribus Loonum
Massive Report: For the second consecutive year, Minnesota is on the outside looking in when it comes for the playoffs. What went wrong this season. Was progress made from Year 1 last season?
E Pluribus Loonum: What went wrong is, well, a lot of things. For the life of me, I do not understand the Christian Ramirez trade and I never will. They damaged the fanbase and the damage is done; they can do nothing to fix that. However, the addition of Darwin Quintero has been a revelation, he is a treasure that we need to hold on to. One thing I elude to a lot is this: We have made 14 acquisitions (minus the draft and Sam Cronin) for supposed first-team players. Out of those 14, two panned out. TWO. That is simply unacceptable. Rasmus Schuller and Jerome Theisson are the only two players who still play first team minutes. We don’t have a scouting team. Our scouts are our front office members and Adrian Heath.
As you can tell, this team frustrates me. Apparently, Adrian Heath and Manny Lagos have “Passing Grades” and for the life of me, I do not know how. This team has not changed from 2017. The players may be different, but we are just as awful. You can say there is improvement in certain categories or that injuries have haunted us, but still, there shouldn’t be any excuses. Progress has not been made, it’s as simple as that. 2019 needs to be more than just a new stadium. We must do better.
MR: Given United is already out of the playoffs, what do you expect from Adrian Heath on Sunday? Will Crew SC fans see a first-choice lineup, or will he experiment a bit?
EPL: Knowing Heath, he will play a first team lineup. However, it makes zero sense to. Give the kids like Mason Toye, Carter Manley, Wyatt Omsberg and Frantz Pangop minutes. It literally can not hurt us. Regardless, Alexi Gomez, Harrison Heath, Bobby Shuttleworth and Alex Kapp are all out either suspended or injured.
MR: A former Black & Gold favorite Ethan Finlay was obviously supposed to be a big part of MNUFC’S plans this year. How did losing him early to a torn ACL change things? What do you see as his future in Minnesota heading into next year?
EPL: Adrian Heath and Manny Lagos have a lot of decisions to make regarding our injured players. Notably, Kevin Molino, Ethan Finlay and Sam Cronin. All three were major figureheads rolling into 2018, but not one of them saw the full season. Finlay was supposed to be a big part of what we were creating, but it depends on how he recovers. I don’t see Finlay and Molino both starting next year so Adrian Heath has some decisions to make on that end. Miguel Ibarra has had a phenomenal 2018 season, and he and Darwin Quintero should be our starting wingers in 2019.
Heath logic however is to play either Quintero or Molino in the No. 10 spot, so I guess we will have to wait and see. Finlay should be a major part of next year, but it completely depends on how he recovers from injury.