Fan Forum: A Look Back
Wednesday’s Crew Fan Forum was a very good experience. GM Mark McCullers, Head Coach Sigi Schmid, Technical Director Brian Bliss, and players Danny O’Rourke, Robbie Rogers, and Frankie Hejduk answered questions for over two hours. I will try to touch on the highlights of the session, but I am sure to miss some things that were discussed. These won’t be discussed in any particular order, but I will try to group together some similar topics.
Due to the length of this post, the rest will be after the jump.
On the Field
Brian Bliss was asked about his recent scouting trip to Honduras. Bliss said that he did not any of the players he saw down there were Designated Player caliber players or players that would be probably brought in before the transfer window. The Central and South American leagues are currently in season and the players are under contract; making any moves more difficult.
The back line was a topic of conversation as well. Mr. Schmid and Mr. Bliss alluded to Gino Padula. He is expected to be a starter and solidify the left back position. He is a good passer out of the back and makes good decisions. Danny O’Rourke appears to have locked down the starting center back spot next to Chad Marshall. Frankie Hejduk holds down the right back spot as expected. It does not appear that depth is a top concern at this time as Ezra Hendrickson, Stefani Miglioranzi, rookie Andy Iro, and Ryan Junge. It also appears as if Jed Zayner has fallen behind the other backs on the depth chart due to injuries.
The offense is not going to be upgraded via player acquisition as noted above. Mr. Schmid expects 10-15 goals from Alejandro Moreno, 5 goals from Nico Hernandez, and 5-10 goals from both Eddie Gaven and Robbie Rogers. The only way this works is if the man not in the previous sentence, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, can mesh with the other offensive options like the end of last season. Robbie Rogers noted at the forum that it was a steep learning curve to work with Schelotto. He also noted that Gaven and himself were only starting to click towards the end of the season. I guess I will be cautiously optimistic about the Crew “Total Football” idea coming together.
I will also note that Mr. Schmid is one of the most knowledgeable fans of the game of soccer and MLS in particular that I have heard. He was asked what he thought of some of the other teams offseason moves. His answer spanned all of the other teams in the league while picking out specific moves and how they are shaping up for the season. The man knows and loves American soccer.
Off the Field
One topic loomed over the discussion about the off field state of the Crew. The stage project was a “no brainer” in the opinion of Mark McCullers from a business standpoint, but there was some discussion of how to proceed from the aspect of the supporters group. He seriously looked at adding stands to the south end, but it would have cost around $300,000 to complete. The northeast corner option allows for all of the supports groups to be grouped together. This is something that will look good on television. They are looking at options such as a renting it out or creating a beer garden.
The coming Toronto FC invasion also brought up the topic of fan support. It seemed that everyone from the team involved in the forum really care about the fan experience. Mr. McCullers thanked the supporters groups for the energy they bring to game day several times through the forum and wanted that extended to away games. The team is currently looking at the option of buying a team bus for the youth development program. The bus would then be used to support trips to DC, Toronto, or Chicago. The team also discussed trying to extend that energy to the rest of the stadium by trying to publish some supporters songs for everyone to join in.
The team also covered some of the notable off season business moves. The Crew have a new radio home on WTVN-AM 610 and Columbus Sports Network is expanding their coverage of the team. All games will be on TV again this year with CSN filling in when the Crew are not on national TV. The location of the new training complex is due to be selected in the next 60 day. Delaware County, Newark, Hilliard and Columbus put forward proposals.
I really enjoyed listening to both the question and answers from the fan forum. I did not cover everything, but I will be following up in the next couple of weeks. The new Crew Juniors and Academy teams merit a full post. I will also be examining the state of the team before the start of the season.