For the next two weeks, MLSsoccer.com will preview each of the 19 teams in Major League Soccer, beginning with the clubs that brought up the bottom of the table in 2011 and ending with the league's newest addition, the Montreal Impact. This is part two of two previewing Columbus' 2012 season. You can find Part 1 here.
Depth Chart: 1. William Hesmer, 2. Andy Gruenebaum, 3. Matt Lampson
Strengths: Hesmer has a ton of experience as a starter, and Gruenebaum has a plenty of experience as his backup. The roles are already defined, so it will be interesting to see how they progress under new goalkeeper coach Scoop Stanisic.
Weaknesses: Hesmer is injured at the moment, leaving Gruenebaum to take hold of the starting spot until he returns. Both need to command the box better. Hesmer hasn’t stolen points with big saves the past two seasons as he did in 2008 and ’09.
Wildcard: Lampson is a Home Grown signing from Ohio State who has decent size (6-foot-3, 190) and is very vocal. The problem will be finding him games.
Depth Chart: RB: 1. Sebastián Miranda, 2. Korey Veeder, 3. Aubrey Perry CB: 1. Chad Marshall – Julius James, 2. Carlos Mendes, 3. Josh Williams LB: 1. Shaun Francis, 2. Jamie Finch
Strengths: Chad Marshall is the anchor in the middle and will control the air. Julius James is recovering from shoulder surgery and won’t be available until late March or April. Miranda was quietly effective on the right side last season and rarely fouls or is out of position.
Weaknesses: Shaun Francis’ development was stymied during his second season in 2011 because injuries limited him to six games. He needs to bounce back from that setback. On the other side, Miranda could use a backup after playing all but 16 minutes last season and looking fatigued toward the end.
Wildcard: Rookie Aubrey Perry from South Florida has quickness that is lacking in the back. He’s raw but has a major upside.
Depth Chart: LM: 1. Dilly Duka, 2. Bernardo Anor, 3. Kevan George CM (attacking): 1. Milovan Mirosevic, 2. Cole Grossman, 3. Kirk Urso CM (holding): 1. Tony Tchani, 2. Danny O’Rourke, 3. Eric Gehrig 4. Rich Balchan. RM: 1. Eddie Gaven, 2. Ethan Finlay.
Strengths: The Crew were a good possession team at their best but often did little to create prime chances. Mirosevic should be able to put his teammates in dangerous spots and possibly get more goals from Eddie Gaven and Dilly Duka, among others, on the flanks.
Weaknesses: Depth will be a problem until some of the young players – and there are many in the midfield – acquire more experience. Balchan is currently injured, pushing him down the depth chart.
Wildcard: Rookie Kirk Urso expected to be taken in the MLS SuperDraft but fell to the Crew in the Supplemental Draft. He has good vision and control and is eager to show the other teams they made a mistake in not choosing him.
Depth Chart: 1. Olman Vargas, 2. Emilio Rentería, 3. Tommy Heinemann, 4. Justin Meram, 5. Ben Speas, 6. Aaron Horton
Strengths: Vargas and Rentería could be one of the best combos in MLS if they can develop some chemistry. Both can handle physical play.
Weaknesses: Rentería is injury prone and played only 18 games (eight goals) last season, although some of his absences were due to time with the Venezuela’s national team. Tommy Heinemann is a capable backup but squandered too many chances.
Wildcard: The Crew are excited about the potential of Speas, a Home Grown player who led North Carolina to the College Cup title in 2011, a year after doing the same for Akron. He’s smart and and can be effective in the midfield, too.
Craig Merz covers the Columbus Crew for MLSsoccer.com.