To get everyone ready for tomorrow’s match against the Columbus Crew, we spoke with Massive Report’s Pat Murphy to answer some questions regarding the Crew’s expectations for the upcoming season and what we can expect from them against Atlanta United.
You can read about what they wanted to know about our team here:
What is the general vibe around Columbus heading into the 2017 season?
In talking to fans, I get a mixed bag. After the disappointment of last year, a lot of people are worried about similar results. There wasn't a marquee signing (at least one that really excites fans) this offseason that many expected and I think that has made an impact.
With that said, the team has been retooled quite a bit and will look different come March 4. There is a segment of fans, that seem to be less vocal, who are excited to see what the new players have to offer.
I guess if I have to put a label on it, I would say people in general are cautiously optimistic. It is a new year and it doesn't take much to turn a team around in MLS. Personally, I think it should be a fun season.
With the departure of Steve Clark, what does the Crew's goalkeeping situation look like heading into 2017? Is the Zack Steffen era upon us?
That is hands down the biggest question heading into 2017. Not just for us in the media or fans, but for the coaching staff as well. Head coach Gregg Berhalter has been asked about the goalkeeping situation since the start of camp and is yet to name a starter, though he said he hopes to have one guy picked by the end of the Carolina Challenge Cup.
Here's the situation. Brad Stuver is the "veteran" entering his fourth season with the Black & Gold. That sounds great, but due to injuries and the like, he's played in two MLS games (and not many minutes even outside of league play) and those both came at the end of last season. Stuver is a solid keeper, but there's a question as to whether he's really the full-time answer.
You mentioned Steffen, who has played with the U.S. youth national teams at every level. There is a lot of hype surrounding the 21 year old locally despite most fans having never seen him play. He spent two seasons on the Freiburg reserve team, but was beginning to work with the first team when he came back to the states.
The biggest thing for these two players in possession. With the way Columbus plays, the goalkeeper has to be good with his feet and be able to hold the ball, make the right pass and be available if the defenders are under pressure. That's not always a strength of American keepers and these guys are both still working in that department.
In my mind, from what I've seen and heard, neither guys is quite ready to go and I assumed Berhalter would bring in a more veteran goalkeeper. Since he hasn't, and the season is fast approaching, I would guess that he goes with Steffen to start the year because of his natural shot-stopping ability, plus he can always fall back on, "he's still developing" if things don't go well.
Columbus has already played three preseason matches in Brazil. What has been Gregg Berhalter's approach to these matches? Can we expect something similar on Saturday?
To answer your second question first, no, these matches will be handled very differently.
The three games in Brazil were focused on teaching the new players the system and and getting fitness. One game was just a couple days into preseason against Sao Paulo, who were much further along. Crew SC got killed, but both players and coaches were not concerned with the score line. The other two matches went better, but I know the organization was disappointed the scores even got out because that was was not the focus of those games (also they weren't all structured like the typical two 45 minute halves).
For these games, Berhalter is looking to get his starting lineup set. He stated he plans to keep close tabs on how players are performing and who they are performing with during the first two games in the hopes of putting out something close to an opening day lineup in the final match of the tournament.
While the staff is still not putting much weight on results, I think they would like to see some positives in these three games. Berhalter said the goal isn't to win this preseason cup, but he wants to know that he's got an 11 (plus a few) that are ready to go before the Chicago Fire come to Columbus to start the year.