Crew View: 5 points to ponder

A game back, Columbus heads on the road

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The first of two bye weeks this
month is in the books, and the Crew are ready to take their show on the
road for the first time Saturday at FC Dallas. Here are a few talking
points as the Crew prepares for the Hunt family reunion in Pizza Hut
Park.

Looking up: Oh, no. The Supporters’
Shield winner the past two seasons has already dropped three points
behind East leader New York. The Red Bulls won at Seattle while the Crew
sat home and ate the ears off chocolate bunnies and watched the Final
Four.

Of course, chasing the top spot is nothing new for the
Crew. Remember last season? They were tied for last in the conference
after eight games with a 1-2-5 record.

The Crew didn’t get into
first until beating Toronto FC on July 25 in the 19th game
of the season, then put a death grip on it. There’s no reason to think
the Black and Gold won’t be there again at the end of the season.

3D:
Having a deep backline comes in handy, especially when five of eight
defenders will be watched closely this week because of injuries.

The
latest aggrieved is Eric Brunner, who took a knock to the head in a
scrimmage against Marshall on Friday and could miss a few days of
practice as a cautionary move.

Frankie Hejduk (groin) took it
easy last week but should be ready Saturday. Likewise for Chad
Marshall—the two-time MLS Defender of the Year missed the first game
with a strained right hamstring.

Jed Zayner (right knee) could
resume full training this week but is doubtful for this weekend and
rookie Shaun Francis (left ankle) is probably a month away from
rejoining training.

The key is that the Crew have another open
weekend April 17-18, so there’s no need to rush any of them.

On
trial
: French midfielder Leandre Griffit, 25, put on a
display vs. Marshall (the university, not the defender) with a goal and
an assist. As soon as he started running at the defense with the ball,
he caught the attention of the Crew brass.

Griffit even did a
spin-a-rama move around a poor Thundering Herd defender long the
sideline in front of Crew president Mark McCullers and technical
director Brian Bliss.

Of course, nuking college kids on spring
break is a little different than trying those moves against the big
boys.

Also, there may be a Nigerian striker in Crew camp this
week. Any signing would take place this summer.

Road
Crew
: It will be interesting to see who makes the first road
trip. Will rookie midfielder Dilly Duka be part of the 18-man travel
squad? Would first-year midfielder Othaniel Yanez go? What about
longest-tenured Crew midfielder Duncan Oughton?

Of course, a
lot depends on the injury situation. If any more players go down, coach
Robert Warzycha won’t have to tell anyone that he is staying home.

Saved by zero: The past six Crew regular-season
matches, and seven of eight including playoffs, have involved a clean
sheet since Columbus beat Los Angeles 2-0 on Sept. 26.

That was
followed by four straight 1-0 scores, three of them losses, heading
into the postseason. The conference semifinal opener was another 1-0
defeat at Real Salt Lake followed by a 3-2 loss at home to the eventual
MLS Cup champions. Of course, this season opened with another
whitewash.

The last time the Crew and FC Dallas played was Aug.
15 in Columbus, with the home team winning 2-0. The Crew haven’t been
shutout at Dallas since July 10, 2004. That match ended in a 0-0 draw
in the Cotton Bowl vs. the Burn, the second of consecutive scoreless
games in the series that year.