Earlier, the Crew declined the options on seven players. The team was quick to say that they are looking to bring back some players with a smaller contract number. It's hard to say what the options were on some of the players, but the sizable contracts for Chris Birchall, Sebastian Miranda, and William Hesmer probably came with raises built in.
Rich Balchan - A 2011 First Round Draft pick. He performed very well in his rookie season, playing in 19 games, including 18 starts at left back, center back and defensive midfielder. Given his option price was likely a very reasonable number in the mid 5 figures and he's only 23, this strikes me as a decision that was based more off of non soccer reasons. Balchan at that number was worth the risk. Perhaps one or both parties wanted a fresh start.
Chris Birchall - The Englishman was a midseason pickup as he joined the team in late May. He quickly became a fixture in the lineup with 17 starts and a sub appearance. He was notably unhappy with his lack of playing time during a September stretch where he didn't see the field for three straight games. Birchall's performances were notable for their high energy, but consistent lack of polish as he tended to cede possession quite a bit. Perhaps the Crew are looking to bring him back, but his contract was just signed so it's unlikely.
William Hesmer - Perhaps the least surprising cut of any the Crew made. The 2008 MLS Cup winning Hesmer was due to make at least $170,000 next year after missing the entire season due to a hip injury. During his absence, Andy Gruenebaum seized control with a Team MVP performance that saw him finish 5th in the Goalkeeper of the Year voting. Hesmer has talked to the Dispatch's Adam Jardy about his post-playing career and could be ready for his second career in financial services.
Tommy Heinemann - The Crew had two tall forwards who projected as late game subs. Aaron Schoenfeld is younger and is coming off a relatively healthy season. Heinemann played 5 minutes in the season opener before suffering a season ending knee injury. His 2011 season was solid as he made 28 appearances, including 12 starts scoring 3 goals, however recovery from his knee injury puts him at a disadvantage. I'm hoping there is something out there for one of the good guys on this Crew roster.
Julius James - His injury plagued 2012 season never let him get into a rhythm. He didn't make an appearance until the Open Cup in late May after suffering a shoulder injury and a collapsed lung to start the season. After 31 starts in 2011, he was limited to 7 starts in 12 appearances this past season. He will be out again for an extended period of time with another shoulder surgery.
Sebastian Miranda - The Chilean was a steadfast defender, but was likely carrying a high budget number for 2013. Miranda has shown signs of slowing, but still is a solid right back option at 32 years old. The Crew also have no backup behind him; Ethan Finlay backed him up in training. The Crew likely want to retain his services, but at a reduced number.
Tony Tchani - The Cameroonian is still carrying around his Generation Adidas contract which makes it hard to keep him on the roster at that number. The Crew likely will approach him with new terms to better match his performance last year. He did start 14 games and made 22 appearances, but was inconsistent as he played both central midfield and right wing.