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The Sports Page: Columbus Crew Midseason Review

 Corey Barnes The Sports Page: Columbus Crew Midseason Review
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In honor of the United States’ birthday, let’s take a look at America’s fifth (8th? 29th?) favorite sport: soccer. The Columbus Crew find themselves at the true midway point of their season after Saturday’s disappointing 2-0 loss to FC Dallas. The 2011 club is in a word ‘average.’ Their record reflects this with six wins, five losses, and six draws for a grand total of 24 points. Here are the team’s numbers by month:

The Crew has shown flashes of brilliance (11 points in April) and moments of head scratching play (2 points in May). Inconsistency seems to be the rule and that irregularity needs to be corrected soon. The Crew is no longer the best team in the East as in years past. Columbus sits one point behind the New York Red Bulls and three in back of the conference leading Philadelphia Union. Slightly more concerning is that the three best records in Major League Soccer all belong to Western Conference teams – LA 35, Dallas 34, and Seattle 31. Unlike hockey or basketball, all playoff teams regardless of conference are pooled together at the beginning of postseason play which means Columbus could be facing a brutal first round matchup depending on how they finish.

In terms of individual achievements, the offensive MVP at the midseason point is surely Andres Mendoza who in 14 games has netted 7 shots with an assist. Unfortunately the offensive production drops off a bit past Mendoza. Jeff Cunningham, a well-publicized free agent acquisition this past off-season, has done very little wearing Black and Gold, managing only one shot on goal in 408 minutes. The club as a whole has scored 20 goals out of 74 shots on goal.

Keeper William Hesmer has been a fixture between the pipes, starting every game for the Crew. In 1,530 minutes Hesmer has saved 42 shots while allowing 19 goals. He has pitched 5 shutouts this season while allowing on average 1.12 goals per game which ranks seventh among goaltenders with at least ten starts. While he has had some error prone games (3-0 loss to San

Jose) there have been some gems (2-0 win over the Dynamo). Hesmer has often found himself the hard luck loser as a result of poor offense.

Most of the statistics about this year’s club reads like “good news, bad news.” For example, the Crew has converted all five penalty kick attempts they have seen this year, but … they have been caught offsides 55 times this season, 4th most in all MLS. The club is only three points out of first place in the East but … their goal differential is only +1. There is plenty of season left and ample opportunities to improve their record for a strong playoff push. Ultimately the Black and Gold need to bring themselves together and play some consistently good soccer. Otherwise we may look back in November and say, “Well we made the playoffs, but…”

Photos provided by Matt Ellis of Three Songs Photography.

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