OBETZ, Ohio – Even as other some teams have taken advantage of the summer transfer window, the unchanged Crew still believe they can finish atop the Eastern Conference for a third straight year.
“We’re confident in our team,” goalkeeper William Hesmer said. “We’re confident in our abilities that if we do the things we’re capable of, we feel like the East should be ours.”
The Crew (9-3-4, 31 points) hold a five-point lead over second-place New York, who made news last week with the signing of Thierry Henry as their second designated player. Meanwhile, Chicago may have bolstered their chances with the signing of Mexican standout Nery Castillo.
Hesmer said the acquisition of Henry is welcomed in MLS even if his team’s goal to repeat has gotten harder.
“Anytime you can bring a quality player into this league, it’s good,” he said. “He’s still got some quality years in him – that’s the key. They’re bringing in a guy who can contribute not only in name recognition but he’s going to increase the product on the field. That’s the ultimate goal.”
While the Red Bulls seek a third designated player to add to Angel and Henry, the Crew have not made any moves and do not have a DP.
“We have good players, too,” Crew coach Robert Warzycha said. “It is going to be a battle for first place all season.”
Former D.C. United forward Luciano Emilio said after being released last week that Columbus were a team he would be interested in, but the Crew haven't made an offer.
“If our staff feels that’s a need that needs to be addressed I’m sure they’ll go out there and do that,” midfielder Brian Carroll said. “We’re playing fairly solid soccer and the goal would be to stave off any sort of pressure that’s going to come from teams below us right now. We still need to improve, whether that’s with or without any additions.”
Hesmer said that teams that invest in star players, such as the Red Bulls, will ultimately benefit all.
“The more owners you have that are willing to make their product better on the field and ring in marquee players such as [Henry], that’s a positive,” he said.
“You will see a little disparity between the haves and have-nots, but that doesn’t always translate into wins and losses,” he added. “Some teams like Columbus; we’ve done a great job without spending a lot of money. Salt Lake has done the same thing. There’s different ways and different philosophies to go about it.”
Carroll said the past two MLS Cup winners have shown that talent is only one ingredient to being successful.
“With Salt Lake winning last year and us the year before there’s a lot of team chemistry and that builds to better performances on the field,” he said. “Whether teams that bring in DPs are immediately able to get that chemistry is the key point for them.”
Still, Hesmer doesn’t begrudge the Red Bulls’ spending spree on Henry.
“Obviously, when you’re in New York, it’s a different mentality,” he said. “When you’re a sports team there, you’re forced to throw around a little more money. It’s great for the players to see owners willing to invest that kind of money.”