Crew-United Preview

The Associated Press

No team in MLS history has seen a greater decline in points than what D.C. United recorded between the last two seasons.

The team underwent a dramatic overhaul to fix the problem in the offseason, with the hope of returning to its playoff form.

The journey starts Saturday night when the Columbus Crew visit D.C. in the season opener for both teams.

United went from reaching the conference finals in 2012 to finishing with the worst record in the league last season, going from 58 points to 16 a year ago at 3-24-7. They were especially poor over the final two months, going 0-9-3.

Among the many problems was a lack of offense, as the team finished a distant last in MLS with 22 goals scored. To address the offensive issues, United added a pair of talented scorers in U.S. national team member Eddie Johnson and Fabián Espíndola, who had nine goals in 2012 with Real Salt Lake and again last year for New York.

"I am looking forward to it because both (Espíndola and Johnson) can make real plays, and that is something we were missing last year," coach Ben Olsen told the team's website. "When Chris Pontius comes back healthy, he will be competing for a midfield position and a forward position, again building on the competition aspect and being a deeper team. It is part of this good problem we have right now."

Pontius, who underwent offseason surgery to repair a damaged left hamstring, is one of the few returning players on a roster that has 13 new additions.

The Crew also made some changes over the winter, hiring former national team midfielder Gregg Berhalter as their coach after missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season. Columbus finished in eighth place in the East with a 12-17-5 record.

"There's definitely a buzz (heading into the season)," midfielder Wil Trapp told the team's website. "About the fans, about the team, about the organization as a whole. I think Gregg has been a huge part of that. Myself, as well as the whole team, we've taken to him very well."

The biggest changes have come on defense, where they have added Giancarlo Gonzalez and Waylon Francis. Both are hoping to play in the World Cup this summer for Costa Rica, but first must prove themselves for a Columbus team that allowed 46 goals last year.

"For (Francis), this is a good opportunity to put himself in position to make the World Cup team," Berhalter said.

The Crew won both matchups between the teams in 2013, including a 2-1 victory in D.C. on March 23.

What to Read Next