McCullers remains confident in Crew's quest for postseason
Through 19 games this season, 2013 hasn't gone quite the way Crew President and General Manager Mark McCullers had predicted.
"I definitely believe we are going to make the playoffs and I believe we are a team that can win the Eastern Conference championship," McCullers said back in January.
With inconsistent results, mixed with injuries and an in-flux of young players, a pessimist would say the club's postseason chances are slim to none. The Black & Gold are 6-8-5 and seventh in the Eastern Conference table, yet remain just six points out of the fifth and final spot to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Despite the team's struggles, McCullers stands by his bold statement this winter.
"Obviously, the season hasn't gone as we scripted. Frankly, no season ever does and I'd include the 2008 season in that," McCullers admitted Friday. "We've had some key injuries, so we've had to do things a little bit differently. I thought that this team could be a frontrunner. It hasn't really worked out that way, but we absolutely can still get it done."
The season has come with a bit of frustration from fans unhappy with the Crew's play. In the middle of a three-match losing streak in June, McCullers began to feel pressure from fans directing their dissatisfaction toward him on Twitter.
McCullers understands the criticism, and appreciates the passion shown from the club's loyal supporters.
"We work very hard to develop a passionate and caring fanbase," he said. "That's what we want. If fans aren't upset when we don't perform up to expectations, then that would be an even bigger problem than me taking some heat.
"I've been in this position for a long time and I understand where our fans are coming from and appreciate where they're coming from because certainly I experience some of the same emotions myself from time to time."
With three-and-a-half months of the MLS regular season remaining, there is time for the Black & Gold to turn things around. Five of the Crew's next eight matches come at home, starting with Saturday's match against the New England Revolution. The Black & Gold will look to build off the momentum spurred from the team's 1-0 win against the Portland Timbers on July 7, the team's last League match.
Midfielders Wil Trapp and Konrad Warzycha, along with forward Aaron Schoenfeld, made their first starts of the season while Danny O'Rourke and Chad Marshall made their second-straight start together in central defense. Coupled with a change in formation, McCullers likes the prospect of the changes that were made with the club's playoff hopes still in sight.
"I'm an eternal optimist, and I liked the way we played against Portland," he said. "I liked the formation we played against Portland. I like Danny O'Rourke at centerback with Chad Marshall. I like the changes that have happened and the direction that we took in that regard. I think we're willing to adapt and we need to try to adapt.
"Those changes to me were very encouraging. I hope it's something that spurs a bit of a run, because we need to string a couple of wins together."
A midseason roster move isn't likely as all 30 spots on the Crew roster are currently occupied. However, McCullers hasn't ruled out any trades or new signings as he looks to improve his team with 15 matches remaining in the season.
"There's always a chance [to make a move], we're always in that discussion," McCullers said. "I would describe the roster as 'tight' right now in our situation.
"I still think we have the substantial components [to qualify for the playoffs], but we're certainly always looking at opportunities and having discussions."
The Crew may not make a roster move, but if things pan out the way McCullers hopes they will, the Black & Gold will certainly make some moves in the standings.