High Five (no more)
Well, after returning for a couple days, it's time to check out again for the holidays. I might be back Friday with a Godz/Bootleggers review, but otherwise Sensory Overload is going dark until next Monday.
A couple things to think about until then:
•How will High Five's transformation into its new identity as Circus go over? Despite the sweet location at 5th and High, nobody has ever really made that space into the music scene staple it could be. They have some successful weekly events — namely, Punk Rock Karaoke on Mondays and the Saturday night goth dance party called Church — but as a live music venue, it usually seems like an afterthought bands turn to when other places are already booked. Various promoters have tried doing shows there regularly, including Donewaiting's Robert Duffy and local up-and-comer Jacob Wooten, but none have been able to consistently draw crowds to the place for touring or local acts.
At the same time, the ownership team of Ron "Red" Ringle, Earl "Skully" Webb and Mike "No Nickname" Irwin have a lot more experience running a rock club than Nick Wolak did. Plus, Wolak even said himself he originally intended to be strictly an investor and his heart really wasn't in managing the bar on a day-to-day basis. It will be interesting to see what kinds of changes these new guys make.
Some of those changes are already underway, including a new name and a new look for the place. I haven't been over there since the day after they bought the bar, so I haven't seen for myself, but word is they've got the place looking cooler already. Red is reviving the kitchen, and they intend to eventually be open for lunch daily. With that in mind, seems like the new ownership is trying to back away from a punk rock image that might scare away average Joes, but at the same time not alienate the punks. Can it be done? And can they figure out a way to improve the sound in that fishbowl? We shall see.
•Will the 2009 Crew resemble the 2008 Crew in any way? I made sure to hit up the statehouse yesterday for Gov. Strickland's ceremony in honor of the Crew. It might have been the last chance to revel in the glory of this year's MLS Cup-winning campaign. A mere three days after the big game, it's already looking like we could be seeing a very different Crew next year.
For one thing, Coach of the Year Sigi Schmid is rumored to be heading out west to become the first coach of the expansion Seattle Sounders. Soccer by Ives says the deal is all but done. Schmid, who spent his whole adult life on in Los Angeles and whose wife and family still live out there, has strongly hinted that he wants the Crew to pay him enough so that his wife can retire and move out here. And after the Crew lowballed Schmid through the early negotiation stages (and bruised his ego in the process), Seattle's offer of $500K per year must look pretty appealing, especially considering the proximity to Schmid's hometown. So the return of Sigi is not looking too likely at this point.
That means former Crew midfielder and longtime assistant Robert Warzycha will probably take over as head coach. Three years ago, Warzycha was interim coach for a few months between the Greg Andrulis and Schmid administrations. Back then, Warzycha probably wasn't ready for a head coaching gig. But I have to believe three years learning from Schmid has done Bobby good. As much as I would hate to see the guy who built this championship team depart, I'm a lot more comfortable with Warzycha at the helm than I would have been three years ago. Still, I suppose there's a chance Sigi could have a change of heart over Thanksgiving.
Then there's the matter of league and MLS Cup MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Before, Columbus used extra allocation money to keep Schelotto's official salary under the league max of $415K. That allocation money is gone, so in order to keep him next season, the Crew would have to make Schelotto a Designated Player (under "the Beckham rule") in order to pay his $600K salary without violating the cap. Crew owner Clark Hunt has made it clear that he would rather use the Crew's one allotted DP spot on someone more expensive than Schelotto, and at first it seemed MLS was willing to "get creative" to keep Schelotto under the cap. But now it looks like the Crew will have to use its DP spot on Schelotto to keep him here, which they're willing to do if they have to. Their hope is to have a new deal drawn up by Sunday. The MVP has expressed his interest in continuing to play here, so he is not nearly the flight risk Schmid presents.
Someone who is more likely to bolt is Defender of the Year Chad Marshall. The 24-year-old aerial threat is out of contract, and having dominated MLS this year, some believe there's nothing more for Marshall to accomplish here. Plus, given his history of concussions, logic dictates that he might want to cash in on a big European contract while he still has his health. Losing Marshall would be a huge blow to the Crew. This postseason, he owned the likes of Brian McBride and Juan Pablo Angel and scored massive goals in the Eastern Conference final and MLS Cup. Presumably Columbus would plug second-year defenseman Andy Iro into Marshall's center back spot — he's tall, and he has connected with Guillermo Barros Schelotto on the kind of goal Marshall scores regularly — but Iro has a long way to go before he becomes a Defender of the Year caliber player.
One more guaranteed loss: The Crew gave up a player to Seattle in the expansion draft today, and early word is that player is central midfielder Brad Evans. Columbus was bound to lose someone of quality in this draft, and Evans scored some monumental goals for the Crew this year. But if Adam Moffat is able to stay healthy, Columbus has that spot covered. (Plus you have to assume they're looking for some place to fit Pat Noonan and Emmanuel Ekpo on the field.)
Questions, questions, questions.