2015 MLS Season Preview: Columbus Crew

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  • Made playoffs last season, eliminated in conference semifinals
  •  Recently signed naming rights to stadium with Mapfre Insurance
  • One of 10 founding MLS members

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Key Player: Federico Higuain

Last year, everything moving forward flowed through Higuain, and often finished with him as well. Even with new coaching, that figures to be the same this year. With Columbus trending upwards, he now has plenty of help, and his production should only improve, even if his focus shifts less on goalscoring and more on chance creating. Now the club’s highest paid player in history on a new designated player contract, Higuain has even more expectations to live up to.

Other players to watch: Kei Kamara, Wil Trapp, Cedrick Mabwati

Kei Kamara is a big signing for the Crew up front, and will be a fantastic target for Higuain to feed. He arrived at the end of last year but is only eligible to play starting now. Mabwati won’t be arriving until the summer once his season with Osasuna is complete, but his pace and ball skills are something to behold on the edge of the pitch, and he can stretch the field should Higuain garner too much attention. Trapp earned himself a USMNT call-up recently and will look to build on that milestone.

https://twitter.com/ColumbusCrewSC/status/573230417593159681/photo/1

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Head Coach: Gregg Berhalter

A former LA Galaxy and USMNT defender, Berhalter took charge of Columbus last offseason, and in his first year completely changed the expectations in Columbus. The team hadn’t made the postseason in three years, and he weathered a tumultuous early summer to break that streak, and while the club was thrashed by New England in the postseason, his attacking style of play was a welcome change. They were both dangerous up front and solid at the back last year, and there’s no reason that can’t continue this season under the 41-year-old.

2015 outlook:

2015 seems to be a make-or-break season for the Crew. While last season was a success by all accounts, there’s still plenty of room for improvement as the playoff appearance showed. If they regress in year two under Berhalter, many will question the staying power of his management skills and of last season’s play. If they improve or even hold ground, there will be a solid feeling of long-term future success. 2015 for Columbus is all about building for the future by winning now.