New-look Crew to present new challenges for DC
WASHINGTON – When D.C. United welcome the Columbus Crew in their respective season openers on Saturday night at RFK Stadium, both teams will be looking for fresh starts after they underwent similar makeovers during the offseason.
The Crew arrive in the nation’s capital
boasting a host new faces. Veterans like Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Frankie
Hejduk and Gino Padula, key figures in the club's 2008 MLS Cup run, are no longer on the
team. A number of new draft picks and other additions like Sebastian Miranda
are preparing to make their league debuts.
DC, meanwhile, have undergone a similar facelift. Only 14 players currently on the D.C. roster were with the
team last year -- 15 if non-rostered midfielder Brandon Barklage is
signed. A handful of those returnees were either Academy signings, or
missed the 2010 season with injuries.
Unlike United, the Crew have played meaningful
competition prior to the first regular season game, going up against Real Salt
Lake in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. They lost 4-1 on
aggregate, but 180 minutes of serious competition gives the Ohio outfit a head-start in the jelling process.
At the same time, it has also given
DC’s coaching staff a chance to do some advance scouting
“The one nice thing is we’ve seen them play,” DC goalkeeper and coach Pat Onstad
said. “I know they’ve had some injuries that are a lot healthier now. Big
Chad Marshall’s back, that’ll make a difference for them. Will Hesmer in goal.
There are some additions they’ve brought in so it’ll be a little different, but
it’s a team in transition and so are we.”
Without players like Schelotto in the starting lineup,
the Crew are going to present different challenges than ones DC players
have seen in previous encounters.
“It’s a different team altogether,” United midfielder and captain Dax
McCarty said of the 2011 edition of Columbus. “They’re a team in the past that have kind of relied
on their veterans to get them through games, a lot of experience and obviously
Schelotto was a big part of their team.
"They’ve lost some very important guys
but at the same time they’ve replaced them with some younger, a little more
athletic and a little more hungry guys.”
That's not a unique phenomenon in the league.
“A lot of MLS teams are in the same position,” midfielder
Santino Quaranta said. “You come into the season optimistic as a team and as a
group. It’s positive, in preseason, and you find out who you are in the first
couple of games.”
There would be nothing better than an opening day victory to prove to a team that it's headed in the right direction. Both D.C. United and the Crew will hope they can begin to build momentum and confidence in their new squads from the very start.
“I think it’s very important to get off to a good start,”
DC defender Daniel Woolard said. “Anywhere in the league, getting an opening three
points is huge.”