Crew View: 5 points to ponder

A game back, Columbus heads on the road

Robbie Rogers

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

The first of two bye weeks this month is in the books, and
the Crew are ready to take their show on the road for the first time Saturday
at FC Dallas. Here are a few talking points as the Crew prepares for the
Hunt family reunion in Pizza Hut Park.

Looking up: Oh,
no. The Supporters’ Shield winner the past two seasons has already dropped three
points behind East leader New York. The Red Bulls won at Seattle while the Crew
sat home and ate the ears off chocolate bunnies and watched the Final Four.

Of course, chasing the top spot is nothing new for the Crew.
Remember last season? They were tied for last in the conference after eight
games with a 1-2-5 record.

The Crew didn’t get into first until beating Toronto FC on
July 25 in the 19th game of the season, then put a death grip on it.
There’s no reason to think the Black and Gold won’t be there again at the end
of the season.

3D: Having a deep
backline comes in handy, especially when five of eight defenders will be
watched closely this week because of injuries.

The latest aggrieved is Eric Brunner, who took a knock to
the head in a scrimmage against Marshall on Friday and could miss a few days of
practice as a cautionary move.

Frankie Hejduk (groin) took it easy last week but should be
ready Saturday. Likewise for Chad Marshall—the two-time MLS Defender of the
Year missed the first game with a strained right hamstring.

Jed Zayner (right knee) could resume full training this week
but is doubtful for this weekend and rookie Shaun Francis (left ankle) is
probably a month away from rejoining training.

The key is that the Crew have another open weekend April
17-18, so there’s no need to rush any of them.

On trial: French
midfielder Leandre Griffit, 25, put on a display vs. Marshall (the university,
not the defender) with a goal and an assist. As soon as he started running at
the defense with the ball, he caught the attention of the Crew brass.

Griffit even did a spin-a-rama move around a poor Thundering
Herd defender long the sideline in front of Crew president Mark McCullers and
technical director Brian Bliss.

Of course, nuking college kids on spring break is a little
different than trying those moves against the big boys.

Also, there may be a Nigerian striker in Crew camp this week.
Any signing would take place this summer.

Road Crew: It
will be interesting to see who makes the first road trip. Will rookie
midfielder Dilly Duka be part of the 18-man travel squad? Would first-year
midfielder Othaniel Yanez go? What about longest-tenured Crew midfielder Duncan
Oughton?

Of course, a lot depends on the injury situation. If any
more players go down, coach Robert Warzycha won’t have to tell anyone that he is
staying home.

Saved by zero:
The past six Crew regular-season matches, and seven of eight including playoffs,
have involved a clean sheet since Columbus beat Los Angeles 2-0 on Sept. 26.

That was followed by four straight 1-0 scores, three of them
losses, heading into the postseason. The conference semifinal opener was
another 1-0 defeat at Real Salt Lake followed by a 3-2 loss at home to the
eventual MLS Cup champions. Of course, this season opened with another
whitewash.

The last time the Crew and FC Dallas played was Aug. 15 in
Columbus, with the home team winning 2-0. The Crew haven’t been shutout at
Dallas since July 10, 2004. That match ended in a 0-0 draw in the Cotton Bowl
vs. the Burn, the second of consecutive scoreless games in the series that
year.