At the tail end of Coach Robert Warzycha's press conference, he was asked his thoughts on Josh Williams. He revealed that his preference for Williams at left back was borne out of need rather than preference:
You can play him in three different positions, left back, that's probably the last position he wants to play. This year, we needed him in that position and he did as well as he could. In the future, he can go in the center, or go on the right and he's going to be more effective.
This sets the team's priority on the back line. They are in the market for a left back. Nemanja Vukovic was brought in to be the starter, but lost his job and couldn't beat out Williams playing out of position. The team won't be paying over $100,000 for a backup left back. It's unlikely that his option is picked up.
Warzycha would prefer not to use Williams at left back next year so they are now looking for someone who can be a starting caliber replacement. The team has struggled with several options since Gino Padula was let go in 2010. Shaun Francis never was consistent enough and Josh Gardner was poached by the Impact. The talent pool at that spot is thin so the team has probably already started looking for that player, but it's not a lock that they'll find someone.
If the team is able to secure a starting quality left back, then that makes the center of the defense awfully crowded. Williams has proven capable as a starter, especially in the center of the defense. Chad Marshall, even after a down season, is still a quality defender. Julius James and Carlos Mendes are also battling for playing time, but have battled injuries more often. It's possible that one of the two may be seen as expendable.
The team is still woefully thin at the outside backs. Williams flexibility helps, but he's much better in the center than outside. James and Mendes have played outside before, but that's not an ideal situation as neither are well suited to the roll.
The two utility defensive players on the team Danny O'Rourke and Rich Balchan struggled mightily with injuries. The team has been so thin that Ethan Finlay has played several times at right back in reserve team duty. It's a clear priority that they need capable understudies on both the right and the left.
The Crew had a miserly defense through the first half of the season only to see it fall apart. Keeping the other team off the board takes all 11 players, but this is certainly a case where Columbus has a noticeable hole (left back) and thin depth. It's offseason priority number one and probably the most difficult to fix.