By Eric Krakauer
Overview: Columbus will probably spend a lot of time on the outside looking in, but expectations are perhaps a little higher than usual given team’s successful pre-season. Of course, pre-seasons can be misleading, but going into 2013 with confidence won’t hurt, especially after Columbus missed its first post-season since 2007. Similarly to other potential playoff teams, the Crew can rely on a strong starting XI. The team should present a solid defense and midfield, but it’s at the offensive third that Columbus packs a punch. Dominic Oduro has arrived from Chicago with a wealth of MLS experience, and disconcerting pace. His introduction will boost what could turn out to be the league’s best attack. 2012 Newcomer of the Year Federico Higuain and Jairro Arrieta quicky gelled into a frightening tandem, and familiarity can only make them more deadly.
Key Player: Score all you want, but if you don’t have leadership at the back, chances are you’ll tally up a lot of losses. Chad Marshall will have to provide stability at the back in order to buttress the team’s confidence. After struggling for fitness, Marshall is healthy enough to lead from the back. He also offers an aerial threat during set pieces.