Let's talk about expectations.

Let's talk about expectations.

I've repeated ad nauseam in this column that nobody projected the Crew would make much of an impact on MLS this year. Those who didn't freak when Columbus dispatched Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Frankie Hejduk and company freaked when they saw who replaced those guys. Who the heck is Rich Balchan?

Balchan and the rest of the Crew's rookie class performed as admirably as one might hope during a rebuilding (sorry, "not rebuilding") year. So did the rest of the team. Steady veterans who ought to have stepped up - Eddie Gaven, Chad Marshall, etc. - did so. There just weren't enough such guys on the roster; at a certain point, you hit a critical mass of role players and are left wanting for some star power.

That's why those who tuned in to see the Crew lose 1-0 to Colorado last Thursday might have thought they were watching the season premiere of "The Walking Dead." There simply weren't enough guys wearing yellow who had been there before.

Robert Warzycha was probably OK with that. He saw the writing on the wall with Hejduk, whose tackles were growing ever more erratic, and knew Schelotto couldn't go on competing forever. It was time to get new horses before the old ones keeled over, even if that meant spending a season or two in transition. In his mind he did what was best for the club, and he was probably right.

For much of the season, Warzycha extracted more from his new regime than anybody could have anticipated. Two months atop the Eastern Conference? Not bad, Bobby boy. But let's not forget how little regular season success means in MLS.

The result of that success was a new set of expectations. When Columbus tumbled from the penthouse to the wild card, people wondered why the Crew couldn't maintain. When the players barely fought for their postseason lives, it felt disappointing, though it was more like a snap back to reality.

The collapse also retrained a spotlight on Warzycha, who once again opted for puzzling discontinuity to start the playoffs. Sure, give midfielder Tony Tchani his first start, but why bench hot-footed Emilio Renteria?

In 2012, Warzycha will have to show the team he rebuilt has what it takes. And if Crew fans are to have any peace this time next season, the coach will also have to prove for the first time that he knows how to get a result when it really matters.