Tuesday, February 17, 2009

2/17/09: Who Rounds Out The Midfield In 2009?


A good dilemma for Warzycha to have. (Pics via: mlsnet.com)

The only big question mark facing the Crew position wise in 2009 is who will be replacing Brad Evans in the middle of the park for the defending champions. With shuffling of the roster or by making a straight replacement, it could either be Adam Moffat, Eddie Gaven, Emmanuel Ekpo, or Pat Noonan. Having four players of that level of quality to play one possible position has to be a nice problem to have for Warzycha. A more difficult problem to have is how does one keep Ekpo or Noonan happy if they don't regularly make the starting 11?

It seems that Moffat has been "hinted" by Warzycha as the frontrunner for the position. It's Moffat's to lose as it was Moffat's position before Adam had to begrudgingly surrender his spot to Brad Evans because of a season ending injury in 2008. Some people have been concerned by Moffat's lack of playing time so far in the preseason but Warzycha had this to say to the Dispatch's Shawn Mitchell the other day about Moffat, "We knew before we started that Adam was not going to play in the first few games," Warzycha said. "He’s not ready yet and we don’t want to throw him in and risk another injury. He doesn’t have to make this team. He is on this team. We know he is a good player." No doubt that Moffat was an excellent player and a bright spot to the beginning of the 2008 season, but the question still remains on whether Moffat is the same Moffat in 2009? Some players bounce right back from a knee injury like Jon Busch did and others struggle with an injury like Moffat's for a much longer time.

If Moffat struggles, then I would expect either Emmanuel Ekpo or Pat Noonan to slot somewhere into the midfield. Many Crew fans have been saying that Warzycha should work hard to get Schelotto, Rogers, Gaven, and Ekpo on the field at the same time. Reports from the Crew vs. U.S. U-20 game were that these players working together and interchanging confused the U-20's to no end and were a big reason for the Crew's 3-1 victory. Other Crew fans have said that placing Ekpo into the midfield with Rogers, Gaven, and Schelotto makes our midfield too vulnerable defensively. But, possibly Warzycha who likes to take more risks offensively then the defensive minded Sigi Schmid will be okay with placing most of the defensive duties on his back line along with defensive midfielder Brian Carroll. Additionally, Gaven and Rogers have been pretty successful checking back and possibly Emmanuel Ekpo can play more defense then most of Crew Nation gives him credit for. Either way, if you think that Emmanuel Ekpo or Adam Moffat should start in the midfield, everyone agrees that they would like to see a little more of Ekpo on the pitch in 2009.

The dark horse in this race is probably the biggest name in soccer out of the three, Pat Noonan. I believe that Noonan will have a better year in 2009 as he should hopefully receive more opportunities from Warzycha then he did under Schmid in 2008. Noonan scored a cracking goal in Toronto last year (a tough place to play with the turf and the fans throwing beers) but then Noonan was basically forgotten on the bench for the stretch run and the playoffs. For the ammount of money that Noonan is costing the Crew which is reportedly more then Gaven or Rogers, Noonan needs to perform in 2009. And, I believe that Noonan will perform as he becomes more confident with his teammates as well as aclimitizing himself back into MLS. With how long the season is and with being a first option on the substitution sheet, Noonan will get his chance to climb his way back into the starting lineup.

No matter what happens to the Crew midfield Crew nation should feel confident that one of these three will step up and make that final position their own. All three should receive substantial playing time if Warzycha decides to go with a rotating system to keep his midfield fresh(Rafa Benitez style). Even if Warzycha doesn't do that, each player should receive more playing time just because of the greater ammount of games the Crew will be playing with CONCACAF group play and hopefully a deeper U.S. Open Cup run.

Possible midfield lineups for the three players:
Looking at these possibilities, if the Crew has an injury in the midfield this season it seems that they should be able to cover for it with relative ease.

-----------Guillermo------------
Rogers------Moffat---------Gaven
------------Carroll-------------

-----------Guillermo------------
Rogers-------Ekpo----------Gaven
------------Carroll-------------

-----------Guillermo------------
Rogers-------Gaven----------Ekpo
------------Carroll-------------

-----------Guillermo------------
Rogers------Noonan---------Gaven
------------Carroll-------------

So, who do you think should round out the midfield lineup? Vote to the right.

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