It's Columbus Day!

It seems appropriate to celebrate the best team in Major League Soccer on Columbus Day. So let's give it up for the Crew, the Supporters Shield winners of 2008 and the unquestionable top squad in the league. Columbus tends to not get a lot of respect (admittedly, I think I picked them to miss the playoffs at the start of the season) so their storybook season is all the sweeter.The obvious question arises: how did they do it? What caused their transformation, in just one offseason without many changes, from a bottom-of-the-league side into a yellow and black wrecking ball? The obvious answer seems to be having Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who is more like a magician than a soccer player, for a full season. Their midfield maestro has racked up almost 20 assists in just over 20 games, and is one of two serious candidates for MVP honors. (The other, obviously, is LA's Landon Donovan.) But although GBS is an essential part of their team and a real delight to watch, it's not all on his Argentinian shoulders. The Crew have won with and without him. No, the answer isn't just one or two players - it's all of them.

No side has more top-to-bottom talent than the Crew, save maybe Houston, the top club in the West. Columbus has very capable defenders, with starter-quality players going 5 or 6 deep and led by veteran fan-favorite Frankie Hejduk. They have more than capable goalkeeping, with Will Hesmer having the season of his life. The midfield is led by Schelotto, but there's quality from him to wings Robbie Rogers and Emmanuel Ekpo to CDM Brian Carroll. They're so stacked for talent that the excellent Pat Noonan, recently back from Europe, is largely superfluous. Their substitutes are by far the best in MLS. And the fans have responded with greatly improved crowds and invigorated supporters groups, proving that the Buckeyes aren't the only game in town.

The teams with the biggest stars have been the biggest flops this year, with DC United and the LA Galaxy having hugely dissappointing seasons. So hat's off to the Columbus Crew, showing the league that the key to winning in Major League Soccer is to assemble an all-around talented squad, even if the names are a little less flashy. But you'd better win the Cup this year, Columbus. I sure won't be cheering for you in 2009!

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