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Building from the Back – The Crew Defense

March 26, 2008

I certainly hope this team is building from the back. The offense is going to be a work in progress; the defense will have to step up this year. Defensive stalward Marcos Gonzalez is gone. Frankie Hejduk, Chad Marshall, Danny O’Rourke, and the newly signed Gino Padula look to start in front of goalkeeper Will Hesmer. The Crew defense was solid last year, but prone to a giving up late goals. The unit will need to improve for the Crew to make the postseason.

Goalkeeper – Will Hesmer locked down the ‘keeper position last year when he came back from injury in May. He took over from a talented yet raw Andy Gruenebaum. Hesmer performed well. he is not going to be mistaken for a Brad Guzan, but he might have a Matt Pickens like ceiling. That would be a solid building block for the Crew defense. Hesmer is backed up by the capable Gruenebaum and Kenny Schoeni. All I know about Schoeni is that he was a “pool” ‘keeper the last couple of years.

Center Backs – Chad Marshall is tasked with leading the back line. He will be paired with midfield convert Danny O’Rourke to start the season. Marshall has had problems with concussions the past couple of years, so durability is a concern. O’Rourke moves from the defensive midfield to center back this year. He is smaller than Marcos Gonzalez, but he is quicker. He may not mach up well with some of the bigger forwards, but should hold his own in most machups. His passing ability out of the back will be a strength. This will allow the team to build from the back a little easier than last year. First round draft pick Andy Iro is a starting center back of the future. He was a massive presence on the bench in the recent Metapan game. I really cannot tell you much beyond he is left footed. He will see substantial playing time this year if Marshall’s injuries reoccur or my opinion of O’Rourke proves to be optimistic. This can be another strength on the team, but a lot has to happen.

Right Back – Frankie Hejduk. The 33 year old has been a stalwart since joining the team in 2003. He may not be a fast as he used to be, nor was he the most technical of defenders, but he is still is a savvy presence on the back line. It is a steep drop off from Hejduk to backups Ryan Junge and Andrew Peterson.

Left Back – The revolving door at left back may be stopping with the pickup of Argentine Gino Padula. The 31 year old has played in Europe, but he has only played a few games in the past couple of years. Sigi likes his passing ability out of the back; that will be a positive. He is awaiting his visa, so he will not be available for the start of the season. Stefani Miglioranzi is the primary backup. He played in the back last year and looked acceptable. This is defiantly an area that needs an upgrade from last year. Padula will be looked to provide it.

The defense has promise, but a great deal has to go right. I would feel more comfortable if there were not as many questions about the back line. Every part of this year’s Crew has questions. The defense has to start answering them for the Crew to succeed this year.

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