It’s the Holiday season around the world. Families are spreading the spirit with one another and kids are getting ready to unwrap their gifts from their prized wishlist.
For the Columbus Crew, the offseason is where the Black & Gold can also receive some gifts as the team prepares for the 2022 season. Here is what Massive Report believes the Crew would ask Santa for during the holidays.
A left back
Columbus is now without a left back, as a new deal with the Argentine mainstay Milton Valenzuela has yet to happen, and seems as though may not. With the departure of Harrison Afful and Steven Moreira now finding his place with the Crew, the starting right back position is in good hands. However, the counterpart is now uninhabited.
Valenzuela has been through a few injury periods, most notably missing the entire 2019 season after a torn ACL kept him sidelined. The Argentine missed a total of 20 games last season while dealing with a hamstring injury, which saw him sidelined for a total of 120 days. While the 23-year old is still better when he is in the starting lineup for the Black & Gold, a cautious approach can be understandable while Columbus has no true backup.
The top thing the Black & Gold are asking for during these holidays is a quality left back who can not only fill the void left back Valenzeula, but stay healthy while doing so.
A return trip to the MLS Cup playoffs
After having a great 2020 season that ended with a 3-0 win against the Seattle Sounders in the MLS Cup Final, the Black & Gold missed out on a chance to defend their title last season. The 2021 campaign was not nice to Columbus, which saw the Crew end the season with a 13-8-13 record, missing out on the postseason by one point.
Of course, winning MLS Cup is on everyone’s wishlist, but for the Black & Gold, it is something bigger than that. Under head coach Caleb Porter and new ownership, the Crew expect to be among the best teams in MLS but have missed the playoffs two out of three seasons. Next year must be a return to postseason play.
A better road record
Something about winning on the road just seems to haunt Columbus, and it is not pretty at all. A 3-9-5 record away from home in 2021 wasn’t good enough, despite not winning a road game in 2020 and going on to win MLS Cup.
Winning on the road is just as important as winning at home. The Crew hasn’t had a winning away record since 2008 when the Black & Gold won the club’s first title. While most teams struggle to get victories away from their home stadium, Columbus has been near the bottom of the league in road victories of late and would love to see that record improve when the season begins.
Production from the wingers
There’s only so much playmaker Lucas Zelarayan and forward Gyasi Zardes can do when it comes to producing offensively. The Crew’s wingers will need to step up their production come next season. Seven goals and 10 assists in 2021 from the position may sound like a decent haul, but a higher level of production is required to take the burden off the other attacking stars.
With the system Porter runs, much of the playmaking comes from out wide. When the team is the best, the wingers are producing consistently, something that didn’t happen last year.
This may be the most important thing for the Crew in 2022 after last season’s title defense was derailed by injuries to key players. There’s no doubt that if the Black & Gold had stayed even a little bit more healthy in 2021, there would have been a postseason run.
The injury record last season seemed almost like a curse. Columbus was without Aidan Morris for the entire 2021 season after an ACL injury, Artur was out for a huge fraction of the campaign, the center backs and Zardes all missed time. The Black & Gold had to rely on guys to step up into those positions. And at times the backups were injured.
Finding a way to stay healthy in 2022 will be key to getting back to where the Crew wants to be. Hopefully, Santa can bring some luck in that department.