Lads and lasses, it's almost time for Major League Soccer. This Sunday, the Columbus Crew travels to Dallas for a high-profile exhibition in memory of recently deceased investor-operator Lamar Hunt (to be broadcast live at 6 p.m. on Fox Soccer Channel). And in just about a month (April 7, to be exact), the team kicks off its regular season at home versus the New York Red Bulls.

As a lifelong Crew fan, I'm pumped, but my excitement is more tempered than ever. I've been diehard since the sixth grade, when the team debuted. But last year, for the first time, I found myself wholly disconnected from the team and MLS in general. The Crew's predicament was so hopeless, and its matches so arduous, that it simply wasn't fun to follow them anymore. Usually even fans of a losing team can find some capacity to enjoy the games, but these guys were just horrid.

What's worse, nearly all of the team's biggest and best personalities had bolted for Europe, retired, suffered a boneheaded trade (oh, how I miss you, Jeff Cunningham) or been sidelined by injury. I even had trouble finding a guy recognizable enough to put on the cover of Alive when I did some soccer stories last summer. (Eddie Gaven, a swell guy and a very good player stuck in a season-long slump, ended up getting the nod.) Had Team Anonymous banded together and at least looked like they were trying, they could have captured my heart. As it stood, those weren't my guys out on the pitch, and they weren't doing much to win me over.

Looking at the roster heading into this season, I don't see much reason for hope, but let's try to find some positives...

Lads and lasses, it's almost time for Major League Soccer. This Sunday, the Columbus Crew travels to Dallas for a high-profile exhibition in memory of recently deceased investor-operator Lamar Hunt (to be broadcast live at 6 p.m. on Fox Soccer Channel). And in just about a month (April 7, to be exact), the team kicks off its regular season at home versus the New York Red Bulls.

As a lifelong Crew fan, I'm pumped, but my excitement is more tempered than ever. I've been diehard since the sixth grade, when the team debuted. But last year, for the first time, I found myself wholly disconnected from the team and MLS in general. The Crew's predicament was so hopeless, and its matches so arduous, that it simply wasn't fun to follow them anymore. Usually even fans of a losing team can find some capacity to enjoy the games, but these guys were just horrid.

What's worse, nearly all of the team's biggest and best personalities had bolted for Europe, retired, suffered a boneheaded trade (oh, how I miss you, Jeff Cunningham) or been sidelined by injury. I even had trouble finding a guy recognizable enough to put on the cover of Alive when I did some soccer stories last summer. (Eddie Gaven, a swell guy and a very good player stuck in a season-long slump, ended up getting the nod.) Had Team Anonymous banded together and at least looked like they were trying, they could have captured my heart. As it stood, those weren't my guys out on the pitch, and they weren't doing much to win me over.

Looking at the roster heading into this season, I don't see much reason for hope, but let's try to find some positives...

The Crew did pick up great Chicago striker Andy Herron, which will hopefully bolster one of the ugliest, most impotent offensive displays I've ever seen. (This Top 10 list must be some kind of sick joke--that accounts for like 30 percent of the team's goals last year.) And maybe a few new names are in the mix, but for the most part, this looks like the same roster that laid goose egg after goose egg last summer. My only hopes are these: (a)That coach Sigi Schmid and GM Mark McCullers will get it together, quit squandering the team's available allocation and finally sign a marquee player. (b)That another year together will result in more chemistry and a feistier, more exciting team.

Until then, I'll keep pining for the good old days:

Related: ESPN posted some MLS coverage today, including a piece about the league's paltry salaries and an update on David Beckham's knee injury, which hopefully won't jeopardize his move to the US.