Sunday, February 16, 2020

Hey, a Preseason Crew Game

MLS has kept most of the preseason action off of screens across the country this year, so the first time we get to see the Crew is just a couple weeks out from season start. Last night the Crew took on Phoenix Rising FC in the opening match of the 2020 Visit Tucson Sun Cup in Tucson.

One game is about four short of what I need to get a good idea of the overall quality of any team, but there are things we can pull that tell us what direction the team is going. So, here we go:

1. The team looked fairly energetic. Sometimes these preseason games can be flat.
2. Organized. There is a risk, at least from my point of view, that the players won't respond well to Porter's ways. I didn't sense frustration.
3. Room looked solid in goal. Had a couple big saves.

1. Play was chaotic. A lot of that is early preseason stuff, but after years of Berhalter we've been spoiled by the Crew have a style of play. I didn't see that last night.
2. Zelarayan - for what the Crew paid, you expect him to stand out. Phoenix is a good team, but players like Zelarayan should shine in these games. Late assists in preseason games can come from any quality of player.
3. I still don't think the Crew are going to score much with Zardes up top. I think with Adi in there they have a couple goals when it was strength on strength lineups.


I've started to put together my Eastern Conference preseason ratings for teams (like last year) and of course, I'm starting with Columbus. A lot of that time has been spent trying to figure out where Zelarayan falls on the player quality scale because what I'm finding is that he isn't an A+ or even a B+ player in CONCACAF like I thought he was (and like his fee dictates).

Where I find myself putting Zelarayan is somewhere between Pedro Santos and Federico Higuain. I know the team wants the next Higuain (who was the next GBS), but between available data online (which is a lot!) and what I saw last night, I'm not seeing it. Higuain had a maturity and "presence" on the pitch that Zelarayan did not have last night. One game, but I still remember Higuain's first few times out and you could definitely sense that there was an outstanding player and person out there.

Columbus went big on Zelarayan. The fee paid suggests a player a degree or two better than any player to have ever put on a Crew kit. A lot to live up to. It's way, way early to start asking questions. But it isn't too early to make a note of it.

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