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October 22, 2016
Disassembling the Erector Set?

By Brian Trusdell
Soccer News Net Writer

Home, home, get off the range

With word that the last of the original MLS stadia – RFK Stadium – officially has its days numbered, i.e. the 2017 season, now rumblings are being heard that the first of the new generation of buildings also may be on the way out.

The Columbus Crew have acknowledged hiring consulting firm Barrett Sports Group to consider the feasibility of replacing Crew/MAPFRE Stadium, including surveying fans as one of the “preliminary stages.”

Crew/MAPRE earned a nickname from some as “The Erector Set” because of its relative bare-bones architecture, necessitated by a compressed construction time frame after Ohio State University announced plans to renovate Ohio Stadium. The then Hunt family owners also were known for being thrifty.

However, it was a moniker that belies a demographic fan group – those that grew up playing with erector sets -- that MLS now eschews. Crew/Mapfre also was built on the Ohio State Fairgrounds, apparently too remote for MLS’ now preferred demographic fan group – millennials.

Crew owner Anthony Precourt, who bought the team in 2013, at the time preached MLS’ millennial mantra that a “downtown” “urban environment is what’s most important.” He regaled the “bars”, “restaurants” and “nightlife” necessary to the success of an MLS team/stadium.

Of course 18 years ago, a stadium where a club could control all of the revenue streams -- including parking – was the yellow brick road. Apparently, parking revenue isn’t necessary anymore because the 60 percent of the non-millennials who are MLS fans are not as significant anymore.

The aforementioned bare-bones architecture of Crew/MAPRE has impacted other revenue, since it was built with few luxury suites. A decision will have to be made within a few years since the 25-year lease with the Ohio State Fair will expire in 2023. The Crew has an option to extend the lease another 25 years.

Another going

They’re retirement announcements won’t burn up social media – at least outside of their respective cities, but add Ned Grabavoy to the list of non-superstar yet players who certainly will be missed list.

The 33-year-old Grabavoy, who’s played more than 300 games with six different clubs, said this week this will be his last season. He joins other workhorses Jack Jewsbury, Tyson Wahl and Tally Hall, who have either quit already or will after the final whistle this year.

(Hall has become entered the police academy to become a cop in Orlando).

Like Jewsbury, Grabavoy’s has had an understated career that has crisscrossed the country twice and included two MLS Cup championships (with Los Angeles and Salt Lake) and a Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup title.

Of his 13 years, he’s started 20 or more games in each of the previous six seasons, but only five this year with 17 appearances as a sub for Portland.

Perfect conditions

At first, Didier Drogba didn’t want to play on artificial turf. Then last week he didn’t want to play against Toronto on Sunday if he didn’t start.

Initially, the reason that was announced for Drogba’s absence from the 18-man game-day roster was a stiff back. Montreal coach Mauro Biello said Drogba did have a stiff back, but he could have played. He was causing pain to Biello a little lower on the anatomy.

Drogba has played in 22 games this season, including four as a substitute, but two of which have come in the last six games.

In a statement from Montreal Impact owner Joey Saputo, the situation has been resolved – Drogba has agreed to the role Biello wants him in. There’s been no statement from Drogba. He might not be heard from for a while since Montreal plays at New England this Sunday on Gillette Stadium’s artificial surface.

Finishing strong
Bradley Wright-Phillips didn’t score for the first seven games of the season – essentially the first fifth of the season.

He’s making up for it in the final third. Wright-Phillips has scored in 10 of his last 12 games – including four two-goal games, helped the Red Bulls go unbeaten in their last 15 and virtually clinch the Eastern Conference title.
His two-goal exploits on Sunday in a 3-2 win over Columbus gave him a league-leading 23 goals for the year (one more than NYC FC’s David Villa) and his third Player of the Week designation this season.

Wright-Phillips has won the POTW eight times in his 3 ½-year MLS career, tying him with Carlos Ruiz, Taylor Twellman and Josh Wolff for seventh-most in league history.

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