Sunday, March 23, 2014

A New Era? It's a "New" something, alright....

Groggen was a warrior,  from the land of the midnight sun,
With a license for hire, coaching to be done.
The deal was made in Sweden, on a dark and stormy day,
So he set out for Columbus, to join the football fray...

Long story short... Two matches plus two wins equals six points.

But it's never as simple as it seems, is it? With my apologies to the late, great Warren Zevon for bastardizing what is essentially one of the greatest songs in the last forty years, is Berhalter the answer to what has ailed the Crew since winning its first, and only, MLS Cup in 2008? It's too early to have a definitive answer to that question, but he does seem to be on the right trajectory to clean up the morass and add needed structure to the club.

Much has changed for the Black and Gold in the last nine months. Anthony Precourt bought the club last July and ushered in change by firing "The Polish Rifle", a long-time member of the Crew, both on the pitch as a player and as a coach. In November, he hired "Groggen" as the Sporting Director and head coach. Berhalter is now the "Head Cheese in Charge" and the Crew's fortunes will live and die with the decisions that he makes.

The roster has been turned over, with the driftwood culled from the disjointed pile that has accumulated over the last half decade. And yet, there still is the lacking element of on-pitch chemistry that seems to be missing. Good players should make other players better. Alas, that has yet to happen.

After a convincing, at least on the surface, 3-nil win over DC United to open the 2014 campaign, the hope of many supporters was reinforced. But, digging a bit deeper you will find that DC United, regardless of the roster change in the nation's capital, is still the same team as last year. Yes, Columbus played a decent match. And yes, they got the 3 points available. But really, given the quality of their opponent, was the outcome ever in doubt?

On a chilly Saturday evening in the heart of Black and Gold country, the Crew increased their point total to six by winning their second game of the season over the Philadelphia Union. For the first time in the history of a club that is a "plank owner" in MLS, Columbus won their first two matches to start a season. Seriously? It took this long for that happen?

The Crew seemed hesitant, at times, with their transition game not very fast, at all. They had defensive lapses in judgement that could have, but did not, lead to Philly goals (save for the Fernandes goal at 62'). For the majority of the match, Crew defenders left Union players un-tracked and unfettered access to the goal. Communication is key in these types of situations, and there wasn't a whole lot of that last night.

Post-match, Berhalter said "A lot of crosses in the box and it made it difficult for us. So, besides the first ten minutes in the second half, the next 15 minutes after that was all Philly." And about his defenders, he said "We’re going to have to address it a little bit, but they do a good job in covering up for the mistakes." If they don't correct those mistakes, this will make for a very long season, indeed.

"Pipita" was brought into the Crew fold in July 2012. He is a play-maker that can turn a match on its head. Unfortunately, there is still not one player in Columbus that has the vision that Higuain has and can be where he places the ball. They still, after this amount of time, seem to be somewhat in awe of him. That has consistently led to a waste of his play-making skill. 

And still, the Crew has six points and sits in second place in the East, behind the Houston Dynamo. Homegrown player Will Trapp has been a bright spot in the midfield for Columbus through the first two matches. But, the thing to remember kids is that he will make mistakes, as he's still a young man at the age of twenty-one. 

And now, we reach the crux of the biscuit, also known as the new television deal. "Deal" is the key word in the previous sentence, as in, it's a deal for both the Crew and for Time Warner Cable Sports Channel. Much has been written about this and said through social media, very little good and most of it bad. 

On March 6, two days before Columbus opened the 2014 season, Crew President Mark McCullers addressed some of the very sticky issues that had cropped up in the wake of the announced broadcast deal. It really sounded pretty decent, at the time.

"Never before have we had the typo (sic) of pre and post-game programming bookending our broadcasts, a full 30 minutes before and after. Weekly magazine-style shows, ESPN 30-for-30-type shorts: the content, player profiles and the programming that will be delivered will be like nothing we've ever had before", said McCullers. 

"Pre and post-game"? I call SHENANIGANS on your pre-game coverage of the team. A half-assed, semi-pro general MLS/USMNT thirty minute soccer show DOES NOT constitute a "pre-game" show. Like nothing you've ever had before? Well, that statement is true. The point is simply this. The supporters don't want a generic pre-game show. No, they crave a Columbus Crew-specific pre-game show. 

As for the few households that have TWCSC within the 75 mile blackout radius surrounding Crew Stadium? I can only guess, but I think at most, it was a few thousand households that actually had the match on their television sets. Ironically, McCullers also said "If you have access to TWC, then you have access to the Crew." The wonder is, does he understand that many supporters are not going to switch to TWC?

I could go on, ad nauseam, about this... but my head hurts from thinking about this. Come to your own conclusions. The club might do much better this year, but the question is..... how many will actually see this happen?

No comments: