A few weeks ago, you could write what I knew about Columbus, Ohio on the back of a postage stamp.
In thick, black marker pen.
Now, having been to the city, that’s no longer the case.
You could probably get away with just a biro now…
Having said that, I can at least tell you a little about their soccer team. And it ain’t half bad.
Champions of their division last season, they went on to become MLS Champions, beating New York Red Bulls 3-1 in the final. And the man who set up all three goals that day, Argentine maestro Guillermo Barros Schelloto, was named the league’s Most Valuable Player shortly after.
The team is managed by former Everton midfielder Robert Warzycha, with MLS winning coach Sigi Schmid leaving for Seattle at the end of last season. Incidentally, Schmid doesn’t appear to have lost the midas touch, with the Sounders kicking off the 2009 in fairly formidable style.
But Warzycha obviously knows a good thing when he sees one, keeping changes over the close season to a minimum and hoping for some continuity from the champions.
One man hoping to force a change in the team, however, is Scottish midfielder Adam Moffat.
The former Elgin City & Ross County midfielder set the ball rolling (literally) in 2008, scoring the first MLS goal of the season and quickly became a fan favourite with the Crew. But a knee injury, from which he is only just recovering, cut short the 22 year-old’s season early in the campaign. And to make things worse, he picked up a slight hip injury late in pre-season.
With the Crew’s attempt to retain the MLS crown already underway, Moffat faces a battle to get fit and fight for his place in the side. But he’s relishing the challenge.
“It’s going to be an exciting battle”, Moffat told me after receiving treatment for his latest knock. “Last year was a wonderful one for the Crew, and this year it will be even harder as teams will be gunning for the champions. It’s really enjoyable here, and I just hope to get more involved in it this year.”
Entering his third season with the Crew, Moffat says he has noticed changes in the game, even since he arrived in Ohio.
“The crowds are louder, and the fans are getting in to it more (than when I arrived)”, says Moffat now. “It is definitely growing, and you see banners, flags, signs in restaurants and everything now, which I don’t think you would have five or 10 years ago”.
Moffat’s story, like many of the Scots in Major League Soccer, has taken him from lower league British football to top level in the US. And the fact that his club side are champions will make it all the more difficult for the Scotsman to break in to the side.
As for what else I have learned about Columbus? Well, every February the city hosts the Arnold Classic (or Arnold fitness weekend), a bodybuilding event named in honour of Californian governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. If only I had been here a month earlier…..