'15 Season Preview: New-look Crew eye continued success

Columbus, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - Columbus Crew SC will be hoping its new brand identity will translate into prominence on the pitch for the 2015 season.

The club opted to switch its name from the "Columbus Crew" to "Columbus Crew SC." The logo also received a facelift as the three construction workers made way for a more traditional soccer shield.

But while the changes have been a smash hit among the club's supporters, Columbus will be out to ensure that it is more than simply window dressing.

In order to take more strides in the right direction, Columbus has opted for continuity by making minimal changes to a squad that finished third in the Eastern Conference last term.

The only notable departures from last season are midfielder Daniel Paladini, whose option was declined, and defender Josh Williams, who was traded to expansion side New York City FC for allocation money.

To compensate, Columbus signed a few notable players.

Herman Grana joins the club on the back of a 12-year career in his native Argentina and should compete for the right-back position.

Chris Klute, meanwhile, is looking like a major coup for Crew SC. The 24-year- old, who joined the club via a trade with the Colorado Rapids, is one of the country's brightest left-back prospects.

The arrival that overshadowed them all, though, was that of Kei Kamara.

The Sierra Leone international has joined Columbus from English side Middlesbrough, but he brings a wealth of MLS experience to Crew SC. Not only was he drafted by Columbus in 2006, but he has gone on to represent the San Jose Earthquakes, Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City, as well as English club Norwich City on a loan spell in 2013.

Kamara's constant movement from club to club raises speculation regarding how long he'll last at Columbus this time around, but at 30 years old, he is a much more seasoned professional. He may prove to be the main striker Columbus has been searching for, which could allow star Designated Player Federico Higuain to utilize his technical ability in a more withdrawn position.

The Columbus midfield seems quite established with Tony Tchani and Wil Trapp likely to start the majority of matches in the center of the park.

Tchani has become a mainstay in the Crew midfield since joining the club from Red Bull New York in 2011, while the 22-year-old Trapp will look to build upon a breakout season in 2014 that saw him make 28 league appearances.

Defender Michael Parkhurst will continue to lead the team as captain, while head coach Gregg Berhalter will enter his second full season in charge with the bar set quite high.

ACQUISITIONS: Hernan Grana (D), Kei Kamara (F), Chris Klute (D), Mohammed Saeid (M), Kristinn Steindorsson (M).

LOSSES: Daniel Paladini (M), John Williams (D).

OUTLOOK: The Crew's success in 2014 was a pleasant surprise, and Berhalter has made only a few minor changes to the winning formula. Supremacy in the Eastern Conference is very much up in the air, so there is no reason to believe that Columbus won't be in contention for a high playoff seed.