Columbus Crew are using the off-season to reload for another playoff run.
The Columbus Crew were one of the best teams in the 2015 MLS season. They finished the Eastern Conference as the second seed and made it to the MLS Cup final. After falling to the Portland Timbers in the final, the Crew are looking to reload and make another run in 2016.
The core of the team is returning. Kei Kamara had a breakout season and finished as runner-up for the MLS MVP award. The 31-year old striker had this to say immediately following the loss, “I’m at my peak right now,” he said. “I’m 31 and I want to win something. I haven’t won anything yet. So when I win something, [I’ll retire].” Kamara’s determination is a good sign for the Crew moving forward, they will rely heavily on his leadership as they make another push in 2016. Kamara was also recently named to the Fox Soccer MLS Best-XI. His influence will go a long way in 2016.
Ethan Finlay was also named to the Fox Soccer Best-XI. The 25-year old winger had a breakout season, scoring 12 goals and assisting on 13 more. Both Finlay and Kamara have proven themselves to be instrumental in the dangerous Crew attack.
The attacking prowess that Finlay exhibited this past season has caught the eye of the United States National Team, who was called up for January training camp. The national team is scheduled to play Iceland on January 31st and Canada on February 5th. Potentially making the roster for those matches will provide Finlay with great experience. Playing with some of the best players in the United States will be great exposure alone.
Finlay will not be the only Crew player participating in the January camp. Tony Tchani and Wil Trapp will also be participating. The midfield duo was key in the Crew playoff run. Along with controlling the run of play, they halted the best that the opposition could muster. Trapp is 22 years old and is a future star for the United States, this exposure with the first squad could be the beginning of his national career.
The excitement surrounding Trapp does not end there. Just under a week ago, Bleacher Report released their annual list of 100 footballers to watch in the upcoming year. Trapp came in at 43rd on the list and is credited with being the “heart of the Columbus Crew midfield.” Making this list is not necessarily a good thing. After a poor outing in 2015, some superstars made the list to see if they will rebound in 2016.
Trapp has shown potential for years. He has been the driving force behind the Columbus Crew ascension to the top of the MLS. His appearance with the national team is warranted, and that experience will only help sustain the Crew’s reign on top of the league.
Columbus had a fantastic 2015 season. They won the Eastern Conference and had many players who now stand out as league superstars. The Crew have kept those players around as they continue to accumulate accolades and attention. By maintaining the core and looking to add to it, the Crew are using the off-season to prime themselves for the MLS Cup final in 2016.