MLS First Kick 2011: D.C. United vs. Columbus Crew Preview

Posted In Match Previews and Reviews, Uncategorized - By Ted Meyer On Saturday, March 19th, 2011 With 0 Comments

Can’t believe we are already here. The first Saturday of MLS as we get the 2011 campaign under way. Both D.C. Untied and Columbus have completely rebuilt their rosters from last year.  D.C. United is trying to hit the reset button after a disastrous 2010 season and have injected a new and younger line up. Columbus have dumped star player Guillermo Barros Schelotto and several other key players including Steven Lenhart and Frankie Hedjuk.  With the tremendous turnover for both teams, it is unclear just how both these team will fare this season.

While both Columbus and D.C. United have tremendous turnover,  D.C. United appears to be well ahead of Columbus this season. They acquired Charlie Davies on loan and Dax McCarty in the midfield. Columbus, however, made waves by making Andres Mendoza a designated player on the team. The big question will be can the Peruvian forward fill in for the departed Schelotto?

All eyes will be on Ben Olsen as he has the tough job of trying to figure out just who to start in the midfield. He has dropped hints as to his starting lineup, but it seems all but likely that both Clyde Simms and Dax McCarty will start in the center. Out wide remains a different question entirely. Olsen has designated player Branko Boskovic, long time veteran Santino Quaranta, Andy Najar, Fred, and Chris Pontius. Olsen has essentially five players competing for two spots in the starting lineup.  My feeling is that Branko Boskovic will start on the left and opposite of him will be Andy Najar. That leaves a deep bench for Olsen to pull from. It won’t shock me if we see either Najar or Boskovic come off for one of the many wing players remaining on the bench.

For Columbus they do have some familiar faces. Andy Iro and new acquisition and former DC United player Juluis James will have to contain a potentially explosive United attack. They also will have to get Eddie Gaven into the attack if they look to have any success. They also have 34 year old Jeff Cunningham, who makes his return to the club where he got his start. He sits second behind the recently retired Jaime Moreno on the all time MLS goal scoring list. It will be a special bit of irony if Jeff Cunningham can tie or even pass Moreno on that list in RFK.  Based on the available options, I expect that we could see Cunningham come off the bench.  Despite not being the most prolific scorer in the league, Cunningham could be a dangerous option off the bench for the Crew.

While this is isn’t the final exam for either team, this will be an important step and could give an indication as to what to expect from either team this year. Right now, I just see D.C. Untied as the better team and the clear favorites to come away with three points. Columbus has some good pieces, but feel like a team that a few years off from the former glory. D.C. United appears to have the players that can make an immediate impact to improve on a woeful 2010 season.

About Ted Meyer - Ted Meyer is a writer for The Allocation Order. He is also host of the Bring Back the Stripes Podcast, a D.C. United centered podcast on World Soccer and co-host of Around the League on the Champions Soccer Radio Network.

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