‘09 Crew: The Midfield
Without a top goal scorer, the Crew had to rely on the midfield to score while also providing support for the defense. Last year’s team provided that spark, while the ‘09 midfield loses Brad Evans, they regain a healthy Adam Moffat while also having Emmanuel Ekpo ready to replace Evans as well.
Defensive Midfielder – Brian Carroll The glue in the middle of the Crew midfield. Carroll quietly stopped opposing offenses while transitioning quickly into offense. While not the fastest or strongest player, Carroll has immense soccer intelligence and a tireless work rate. This is an excellent combination for the a cerebral defensive midfielder.
Central Midfielder – Emmanuel Ekpo His offensive skills are unquestioned, but Ekpo is now being asked to fill a two way role that he has not been put in before. His defense is not the best and will have to improve to match last year’s starters Adam Moffat or even Brad Evans. I am most interested in how well he reads the game and picks his spots to get forward while not neglecting his defensive duties.
Right Midfielder – Eddie Gaven The grizzled vet is now in his 7th season. He may not be the breakout star people expected when he was 16, but he is still a potent offensive force and really settled into his role on the wings last year. He plays solid defense and chips in a few goals. I would really like to see the aggressive Gaven I have seen flashes. He is two steps slower when he plays tentatively. Every coach he has played for probably wished for the same thing.
Left Midfielder – Robbie Rogers Another player with a breakout season, Rogers made the MLS First XI last year and was an offensive terror. He is probably ready to make the next leap to a truly special player. He still can float in and out of games and has a tendency to press. If he can overcome this, he will be nearly unstoppable, no matter how hard MLS defenders hack him. I hope this is the season when he establishes himself as the United States’ best left sided midfielder.
The Reserves – Duncan Oughton He may not be an everyday player, but he is still a leader and one of the most visible Crew players. It is always refreshing to see a player make Columbus his home. I am not sure how many playing years he has left, but I really hope he stays on with the Crew or in the Columbus soccer scene for a long time to come.
Adam Moffat The Scot is still returning from his knee injury, but was a force when healthy last year. He was everything Brad Evans developed into, but with a bite. If he can come back to his former form, he will be hard to keep of the field.
Cory Elenio The 2nd year Elenio showed flashes of talent in the reserves last year. He can play wide and even a bit of defense. He is a cut above the normal MLS roster filler. A very useful player to have when the injuries pile up.
Stanley Nyazamba Joining the team midway through last year, Nyazamba has the physical tools to be a very good player, but he needs to develop better soccer intelligence to really make a difference. At 26, I am not sure that he has the time, but he certainly is a risk worth taking.
Alex Grendi The rookie must have impressed the staff to make the team. He sounds like a fearless competitor who trusts his skills. Making the leap from college to the pros is tough, but it sounded like he has the right mindset.