tBG) Kei Kamara was a huge acquisition for Columbus, but that wasn't the only move that was made. How have players like Hernán Grana and Kristinn Steindórsson worked out?
MR) So far, it's hard to argue with many of Gregg Berhalter's additions the last two offseasons, especially his moves from outside MLS.
Hernan Grana locked down a right back spot in preseason that was in flux most of last year. He fits into this system really well, looking to get forward and providing dangerous service from the right side. He's the perfect opposite to left back Waylon Francis, who was the league's leader in assists for a defender last season. Grana will not be hard to spot this weekend with his long hair, running up and down the sideline like Frankie Hejduk used to do. Berhalter described Grana this week as a player who "plays with his heart and soul," which is an accurate description in my book.
Steindorsson is yet to really hit his stride for the Black and Gold and is still attempting to determine his role. He has started on the right of midfield when Justin Meram is unavailable, but is a different player than Meram. We have seen flashes of what the Icelandic international can do, but it hasn't all come together yet. He also may be a candidate to play in Federico Higuain's role at some point if Columbus' No. 10 is out.
One player that you didn't mention is central midfielder Mohammed Saeid. The Swede has started four of five games he's played, filling in for either Tony Tchani or Wil Trapp. Last year, Columbus had little depth in the center of the midfield and that was a priority in the offseason. Saeid has played really well while Trapp has been out with concussion-symptoms recently and is making a case to be a starter in the center of the park.
tBG) The last time our clubs played one another, Columbus had just unveiled their rebrand. It was viewed them as a great success - are people still happy with it? Are there some people who miss the hard hat guys?
MR) From those I've talked to, everyone is very happy with the new logo and the rebrand in general. While the hardhats will not be forgotten, it was time for a fresh start for Crew SC. With a new owner, a new head coach/sporting director, and many new players, the time was right to make the switch and hardly anyone was disappointed with the result.
So far, it seems pretty much anything owner Anthony Precourt touches turns to gold, as the club seems to be moving in the right direction in all ways.
tBG) While not a traditional rival like Toronto is for Columbus and New York is for Philadelphia, the Union are in the same division as the Crew and are close enough to see away fans at the matches. How are the Union and their fans viewed by Columbus and their fans?
MR) It won't be news to anyone to hear that Crew SC fans don't like Toronto FC or most of the team's fans. The same goes for the Chicago Fire and to some of those who have been around since the beginning, D.C. United. The New England Revolution is also climbing into this category with the battles between the two teams last season and in the postseason and how certain fans handled things on social media.
In terms of the Union, I don't think Crew SC or their fans view them with any more dislike than a typical conference rival. I have never heard any complaint from fans of the Black and Gold about Philadelphia fans. I think there is a mutual respect between these two teams and their fan bases. At least I would say that's the Columbus perspective.
Hernan Grana - Michael Parkhurst - Emanuel Pogetetz - Waylon Francis
Ethan Finlay - Tony Tchani - Mohammed Saeid - Justin Meram
Predicted score: 2-1 Crew SC