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Crew vs. Rapids - Three Questions with Massive Report

Andres Mendoza was a big loss in the offseason for the Crew.
Andres Mendoza was a big loss in the offseason for the Crew.

It's time for first kick, and there's a new look to the Columbus Crew that our Colorado Rapids are playing on opening day. I asked a few questions about the Crew to our new blog Massive Report, and their managing editor Patrick was kind enough to answer me.

BW - Andres Mendoza and Robbie Rogers, two of the guys who provided a big chunk of the offense for Columbus last season, are both off the team now. What did the team do in the offseason to replace them, if anything?

MR - Coach Warzycha has said that the goals will need to come from a diverse cast of characters. The team struck out three times trying to get a Designated Player, but they did bring in Milovan Mirosevic from Chile. He is supposed to bring ingenuity and goals to the midfield, something the team clearly lacked last season. He did have 19 goals in 2010 for Catolica. Dilly Duka is expected to be a big breakout player. He really came on in the 2nd half of last season and had a great offseason with the Generation Adidas team and the U-23s. He's going to play on the left for Rogers. Ethan Finlay also looks like an impact player as a rookie and might be a very capable fill in for Duka when he's off at the Olympics. The team is looking for a healthy Emilio Renteria to shoulder the scoring load. He's capable, but has yet to stay healthy over the course of a season. He's picked up several leg muscle injuries over the last couple years. It may be because of his physique since he's built like a tree.

BW - The Crew seem to be a hard team to parse for me. I thought that they would be rather bad last year after their purge of players following the 2010 playoff loss - I'm often wrong about things, you may have noticed - but instead they managed to make a decent run for a top three spot in the East. This year I have no idea what to think, where do you expect the Crew to finish this year?

MR - Crew teams under Warzycha are effective if nothing else. They are well drilled on the defensive end and will work for 90 minutes. That type of effort will earn quite a few draws and even steal a few wins. They also kept quite a bit of talent in 2011, Schelotto was the big loss and the Crew replaced that to some extent. This year, losing Mendoza and Rogers weakens the offense perhaps even more than when Guille left. Mirosevic is a great addition, but this relies on Emilio Renteria to shoulder a lot of the load. It's a pretty weak offense on paper. Even though the Eastern Conference is weak, Sporting Kansas City looks to be the favorite. D.C. has improved, Chicago made moves, New York has talent, I'm not sure the Crew improved enough. They should make the playoffs, perhaps 4th or 5th, but scoring goals may be a big struggle.

BW - Columbus seemed to have a hard time keeping fans around at Crew Stadium last year, surprising to me for a team with fairly recent successes, decent historical support and a very good home record. Is there any reason that last year seemed so dire and do you think it will improve this year by a good margin?

MR - It was a confluence of events. Firstly, the economy pinched the pocketbooks of a lot of soccer going fans. The MLS Cup cam right during a sharp economic downturn that hit Ohio pretty hard. The Crew front office also didn't do the best job of turning the championship into new fans either. Marketing and sales efforts really dropped off through 2010 and the full effect was seen in 2011. In the land of Ohio State, the team had slipped from public consciousness. The Crew have made several big hires in the ticket sales and corporate partnership groups. Season ticket sales are up and the Crew did get a jersey sponsor and a big TV deal this offseason. I expect to see attendance rebound as these new ticket sales initiatives take full effect and the team gets people coming back out.

More on the Crew can be found at Massive Report, check em out!