Crew Cuts: Off stride
Looks like we're going to find out how many fans were serious when they sang "Columbus 'Til I Die" last year.
Major League Soccer teams typically get off to a bad start the year after winning MLS Cup. But in the 14-year history of the league, no defending champion has ever begun a season as poorly as the 2009 Columbus Crew.
After four matches, Columbus has racked up a 0-2-2 record, good for a measly two points and sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
The Crew brought back nearly its entire roster and coaching staff from last year. So how did this happen? Let's count the thorns in the Crew's side:
International call-ups: Playing for your country is always an honor, particularly in a World Cup qualifier. But the absence of Frankie Hejduk and Alejandro Moreno, who have missed significant minutes this season, has been evident. However, most other clubs are dealing with this same problem, so this is a flimsy excuse for the Crew.
Injuries: Pat Noonan and Adam Moffat, both of whom would compete for a starting midfield spot if healthy, have been sidelined since the preseason.
All-Star winger Robbie Rogers sat out the home opener and is questionable for Saturday's match against Colorado, while Hejduk returned from the national team with a leg injury and hasn't played since March 21.
Last year's MLS Defender of the Year, Chad Marshall, took an elbow to the head that left him questionable for Saturday as well. Marshall's history of concussions has sidelined him numerous times throughout his career.
Coaching: Newly promoted head coach Robert Warzycha has been dealt one rough hand after another this year, but he has to take some of the blame for the Crew's poor start. Warzycha has been forced to deploy less-experienced players such as Jed Zayner, Cory Elenio and Alex Grendi, but even last year's starters seem to have regressed.
The club lacks shape, focus and strategy on the pitch, opting for aimless long balls rather than precision passing. They're racked by mental mistakes, whether it's goalkeeper William Hesmer sending an outlet pass directly at Real Salt Lake's Robbie Findley or defender Andy Iro earning a red card for an unnecessarily harsh slide tackle on Chivas' Carey Talley.
While Sigi Schmid's expansion Seattle Sounders are looking a lot like the highly entertaining Columbus squad that won it all last year, Warzycha's team seems like the Crew of old. Luckily for him, he still has 28 matches to turn things around.
What's next for the Crew?
Columbus returns home for a meeting with Colorado at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, after which the Crew gets a two-week break to heal up and get their heads straight.
For more Crew Cuts, click to Chris DeVille's Sensory Overload blog at ColumbusAlive.com
Columbus Crew vs. Colorado Rapids
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 11
Where: Crew Stadium, North Side