The 2023 MLS season is right around the corner and fans can’t wait till their favorite teams present them with scintillating performances on the field.
Columbus Crew Season Preview: New Players and Tactics, Predictions, and Some Thoughts
The 2020 MLS Cup champions, Columbus Crew, didn’t qualify for the playoffs in the last two seasons. But as major changes have been brought to the roster, soccer aficionados are once again considering them to be one of the playoff contenders.
For a lot of people, the Crew are looking like a team that can even be an MLS Cup contender. This has stirred up interest in a lot of punters as well, who are looking for the thrill of betting on MLS at betJACK and other sports betting operators available on the internet.
Let’s start today’s discussion: the 2023 season preview for the Columbus Crew, the new faces, key changes, strengths and weaknesses, and thoughts and predictions regarding the fate of the team.
Key Changes in the Roster
For the Crew, the biggest prize of the off-season is not actually a player signing, but the new head coach–Wilfried Nancy, fresh off a decorated career in the CF Montreal.
It will take some time to see how he adapts to the new environment and the squad, but fans are optimistic, as what he did at the CF Montreal was nothing short of magic.
There are some challenges, though, that he’ll have to face, which will be addressed a bit later.
The Crew brought in Jimmy Medranda from Seattle. They also got two players through SuperDraft: Max Arfsten and Xavier Zeague.
There is also a new forward option added–Christian Ramirez, and it looks like he might be a good rotating option in case Kucho Hernandez misses any game or needs to be subbed during play.
These changes are sure to be of help in the mid and forward areas, but the lack of solidity at the back is still an issue to be addressed. We’ll see if there’s any newer signing further down the road.
The Crew officially said goodbye to the defensive midfield prowess of Artur. His defensive capabilities paired with his ability to control the tempo in the back are something the Crew will most definitely miss. But his deteriorating fitness and the fact that he was not getting a lot of playing time due to the sports hernia surgeries he went through mean that this departure would be for the better of the team, despite the uproar among the fans.
Another major loss for the team was sending off Derrick Etienne Jr., considering his performance last season. Some would even consider it his breakout season, but the Crew are still strong enough in the upper part of the field, so this loss of force in the wing is something they can probably afford.
The Crew’s main strength still lies in its attack and midfield. The dynamic duo of Lucas Zellarayan and Kucho Hernandez makes them one of the sharpest teams on offense.
Zellarayan is considered one of the best number 10s in the league, and everyone knows what he’s capable of. Also, there’s Kucho Hernandez, and judging from his performances near the end of last season, he is clinical in front of the goalposts.
Moving to midfield, Darlington Nagbe is still one of the top-tier midfielders in the league, while the rising young midfield talent Aidan Morris is showing great promise as well.
The Crew aren’t looking so sturdy in the deep areas. If we look at Nancy’s tactics back in CF Montreal, we can see he prefers a formation including three defenders at the back, but the Crew just don’t have the numbers to do so.
There are only four defenders in the whole squad, so regularly playing three at the back will be a luxury that Nancy can hardly afford. Paired with that, the lack of a sturdy defensive midfielder like Artur leaves the Crew quite vulnerable at the back.
Some Thoughts and Predictions
In terms of potential, the Crew are on par with any other top team in the league. But the lackings in the deep areas will be costly if they don’t address it head-on.
There might be more signings as the season progresses, especially in the back. There may also be a potential starting-caliber defender signed so that Nancy can afford the three-at-the-back system that he prefers.
We’ve seen Nancy do wonders in the past, climbing his way towards the head coach of CF Montreal by proving his worth, and time and again, he proved himself as someone who can bring the best out of players.
Lucas Zellarayan is in spectacular form, and if the Crew advances to the MLS Cup, we can expect an MVP-worthy performance from him. Also, Kucho Hernandez showed last year how clinical and dangerous he can be in front of the goal, so there’s also a chance for him to win the golden boot if the team plays on till the end.
So, can Wilfried Nancy bring with him the magic he had at FC Montreal? Can the Crew address their weaknesses and work toward resolving them? If they can, the playoffs will be far less than what they will be able to achieve. They may even reclaim their MLS Cup title after 2020.
There’s still time to resolve any issues and build an all-around strong team. Can they do so? Only time will tell.