2014 is still weeks away, but the Columbus Crew roster for the upcoming season already looks much different than it did in 2013.
The offseason got off to a quick start with the announcement that the club would be parting ways with Matias Sanchez and Aaron Horton, and that news was followed by the shocking announcement that veteran midfielder Eddie Gaven was retiring from professional soccer.
Then, on Nov. 22, the club announced that it would be declining the option on the contracts of Drew Beckie, Glauber, Kyle Hyland, Danny O’Rourke, Jairo Arrieta and Konrad Warzycha. Beckie, Hyland and Warzycha were all paid the league minimum, and are unlikely to return to the team on a different contract.
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“In these cases, for them to continue their career, they need to be playing first team football,” Berhalter said. “For them, it’s can we get to a situation where they’re playing regularly and getting a chance to get into the league?”
Meanwhile, Glauber, O’Rourke and Arrieta were all highly-paid players in 2013, and none of the three lived up to their billing. Glauber yielded mixed reviews before losing his season to a torn ACL, O’Rourke was often injured and never found a foothold in the team, and Arrieta managed only three goals in a season with high expectations. Berhalter made it clear that these moves were largely financial decisions after assessing the players’ performance.
“These were pretty straightforward… It’s basic, these things,” Berhalter said. “Unfortunately, in our system with the salary cap, you have to make these decisions when the performance dips… it’s purely financially motivated.”
According to Berhalter, all three players want to return, but the club and players will have to decide what cost is worth a return.
At the end of the season, the Crew had three players out of contract. Dominic Oduro, the club’s leading scorer in 2013, veteran goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum and young defender Josh Williams all had expired contracts at the end of the season.
Thus far, only Williams has re-signed, in an announcement that came last Tuesday. The defender said that Berhalter’s hiring was a huge impact on his decision, and feels confident in the new coach.
“When I found out [Berhalter] was going to be the coach, that was a big positive for me,” Williams said. “I met with him and I liked his vision, I liked what he expected from me… He seemed like a good guy, seemed like a motivator and that’s what I was looking for.”
Berhalter still says he’s confident of re-signing Gruenebaum and Oduro, but noted that, like any negotiations, “there are good days and there are bad days.”
The Crew also signed Costa Rican left fullback Waylon Francis, who had been in discussions with the club for some time, and a homegrown contract with youth product Matt Wiet, who is currently injured and will likely miss out on much of the 2014 season.