The Crew’s first-round playoff series win over Atlanta United was certainly glorious. So, how do we measure it? Big? HUGE? Pretty darn important?
I don’t want to go so far and use a line from Wapakoneta’s own, Neil Armstrong, when he proclaimed one giant leap after stepping onto the lunar surface and claiming the moon for the Great State of Ohio. But I’m also not going to say the opening-round win is a small step either. Making the playoffs after a two-year absence and gaining homefield advantage for the opening round is a small step. Winning in that opening round is a big step.
I say it is a big step and not a giant leap because there is so much more this team is capable of accomplishing. Think about it. They lost their veteran goalkeeper (Eloy Room) early in the season and Wilfried Nancy had to turn to an untested 22-year-old. In late April, another starter (Will Sands) was lost to injury for the season. On July 31st, their best player left via transfer. There were problems defending set pieces, spotty defending in general at times, and struggles on the road for the majority of the season. Through it all, the young players improved, Nancy moved guys around like chess pieces and developed depth that has paid off greatly, and the team steadily piled up points and climbed in the standings.
When I look at the totality of the season and what this team has done, it tells me they are capable of just about anything. This is why I say the win over Atlanta is a big step and not a giant leap. What do I consider a giant leap? An appearance in the MLS Cup final.
Yes, I know. The Crew is also capable of playing some, let’s just say, less than desirable soccer. But there’s something about this team that makes me believe they’re capable of accomplishing so much. It’s why I say the first round was only a big step, because that one giant leap is still out there and within reach.