Crew View: Taking stock of 2010 season

Considering new strategy, new players for uncongested 2011

Columbus Crew celebrate a goal vs. Colorado.

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Anything the Columbus Crew did in the regular season, the
Champions League or the US Open was trumped by a 5-4 penalty-kick shootout
loss to the Colorado Rapids in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Here’s what can be taken from the series and the year:

Consider
Underperforming

In 2004, the Supporters’ Shield-winning Crew carried an 18-game
unbeaten streak into their conference semifinal opener at New England and lost
1-0. Columbus tied the return leg 1-1 on a late goal, but were left to rue two
missed penalties earlier in the game in front of a stunned home crowd.

Last year, the Crew again won the Supporters’ Shield and lost 1-0 at Real
Salt Lake in their playoff opener. In the second leg, they took a 2-0 lead before
yielding three goals and the series.

This year, the result was similar. Columbus opened the playoffs with a 1-0 loss at Colorado. In the second leg, the Crew
again took a 2-0 lead only to see Conor Casey score in the
84th minute to tie the aggregate-goals series at 2-2.

In fact, apart from the 2008 postseason, opening the
playoffs on the road as the higher seed has been a failing formula in Columbus.

Based on the performance of the San Jose Earthquakes and FC Dallas – as well as the Columbus' semifinal opponent, Colorado – the Crew might want to take their
feet off the gas in the regular season.

No 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League for Columbus

It’s no coincidence that Columbus have tailed off late in the season in the past
two years.

This season, the burden of six extra games and travel outside the country, coupled with a US Open Cup final on Oct. 5 in a
difficult stretch of their schedule, had the Crew running on empty.

None of the four MLS finalists this season played in the
group stage of the Champions League, and 2010 marks the third straight year that no Champions League group
participant will play for in the MLS Cup.

Though the Crew will not see action in the continental tournament, they will be participating in the 2011 SuperLiga. The SuperLiga schedule will likely open with three
group games in late July, a semifinal in early August and the final before
Labor Day. That leaves a more manageable schedule for the Crew in their last
two months of the 2011 season – unless they make the US Open Cup final again.

When the Crew won MLS Cup in 2008, they had no outside
competitions late in the season and finished 11-1-3, including a championship
match win over the New York Red Bulls. The uncongested schedule can only help.

The Young and the
Feckless

Young and swift outside midfielders Robbie Rogers and
Emanuel Ekpo were disappointments in the regular season, combining for
one goal and one assist. Ekpo did, however, set up Rogers’ goal on Saturday.

Is that a sign of more to come in 2011 or does the staff
look elsewhere?

Fortress Falling

With two straight playoff series losses to the visiting team
– a 4-0 shellacking at the hands of Seattle and club-record three straight home
games without a goal – Crew Stadium is no longer a fortress.

In with the New

It will be a long offseason mentally, but short physically, with the first 2010-11 Champions League quarterfinal against Real Salt Lake set to take place between Feb. 22-24.

There could be new faces in the roster by then.

Sources say that if the Crew like what they see at the top of the
MLS SuperDraft, they could offer a starter to the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps,
who have the No. 1 pick, or to second-selector Portland, another first-year
team.

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