Today, we welcome in Thomas Costello from Massive Report, a Crew website, to give us the lowdown on all things Columbus.
Check out the report here:
MRS: The Crew have seemed to be under a resurgence after the signing of Cucho Hernandez, does it owe it all to him or are there more changes that have been made?
1. There’s no doubt that Cucho Hernández’s impact is felt throughout the offense, but he also joined the team when they were finally getting healthy. At the beginning of the season, the Crew scored nine goals in their first three matches, with a full lineup available. When midfielder Lucas Zelarayán went down with a knee injury in the Black & Gold’s fourth match of the season, he came back quickly and the team looked completely different, and not in a good way. Their goal scoring stopped and eventually forward Gyasi Zardes was traded with the writing on the wall that a new striker was needed. Before Hernández joined, Columbus was on an undefeated streak of five matches.
Now that Hernández is here, and Zelarayán is back to normal alongside winger Derrick Etienne Jr., who’s having a career season, things are beginning to click again but with a reliable forward up front. With Hernández on the field, Zelarayán can’t be double-teamed. That gives both of the South Americans space to move and create. It also leaves Etienne and speedy winger Luis Díaz more available to create.
MRS: The Crew sit sixth as of now, are the playoffs a must for the team this season?
2. The Crew need to make the playoffs. After winning the 2020 MLS Cup, 2021 was a whirlwind of injuries and inconsistency on the field. Head coach Caleb Porter, during Columbus’ tough stretch with Zelarayán less than 100%, promised to give up his house if the Crew didn’t make the playoffs. This is a team that has MLS Cup-winning talent and then some, with the addition of Hernández. I like to stay level-headed when it comes to covering the Crew, and looking at the long-term vision over what’s going on in the short term, but if Columbus doesn’t make the playoffs this year it’s a complete failure.
MRS: Caleb Porter is a well known coach, has the hot seat talk all but evaporated and how has that impacted the team?
3. This season, the Crew have had tough stretches and there were murmurs, mostly in the media and on social media, that Porter was on the hot seat. Everything from the team was consistent that Porter was their guy and there weren’t talks about moving on with one of only three coaches who’s won an MLS Cup with two different teams. On the field, it was clear that the players didn’t give up on him either, showing that everyone still bought in where it counted: on the field. To Porter’s credit, it was his strategic changes that allowed Columbus to adapt to life without Zelarayán, when he left for a few matches to recover, and the Crew haven’t lost a match with Zelarayán out.
The only way that the hot seat gets its temperature back up is if the playoffs slip away. With the money spent on Zelarayán, Hernández and goalkeeper Eloy Room, a season without the playoffs would create a whole slew of questions, but at this point it looks like something drastic would need to happen for the Crew to miss postseason soccer.