`The Crew are scuffling along. They are six points out of the playoffs, but it feels like twice as much. This is a team that struggles to score and when they do, they fumble closing out games. The wins seem false somehow and losses... expected.
There are a significant part of the fan base that would love to see Robert Warzycha dismissed. The Nordecke tosses pink-slips at the beginning of games and chants "Guillermo" at the end of games for the legendary Barros Schelotto to return and revive the franchise.
Warzycha isn't the real problem this year though. It's true there have been some head scratching decisions such as deploying Aaron Schoenfeld as a wing forward and expecting him to cut in with Ben Speas on the bench or his insistence at keeping Matias Sanchez on the subs list, behind the increasingly overmatched Konrad Warzycha. Yes, these are odd decisions, but they are only symptoms of the bigger problem.
Mark McCullers alluded to the issue recently, no, not the playoff prediction, but the tight finances that will prevent the Crew from jumping in the transfer market. The Crew are out of budget space, save from an allocation or two. That prompts the question, how is this team worth 2.95 million dollars?
Starting off, the Crew spent heavily on defense. They have one of the league's best defenders in Chad Marshall and he's paid like it. He has a guaranteed compensation of 361,250. He is one of the highest paid defenders in the league. Columbus also brought in Glauber. The Brazilian was an underrated defender before his injury, but probably wasn't worth $263,333 in guaranteed compensation he's scheduled to make this year.
There are cheaper options. Tyson Wahl, Chad Barson, and Josh Williams are all under $100,000, but they share the back line with Danny O'Rourke who makes $175,000. That is significant outlays for defenders in a capped league like MLS.
In midfield, the team does have a high priced winger. Eddie Gaven will make $195,000 this year. The other wide options, Bernardo Anor ($46,500), Justin Meram ($80,695), and Ben Speas ($62,000) are quite cheap in comparison and have seen significant minutes.
Where does the Crew spend money in the midfield? They focused their efforts centrally. Tony Tchani ($130,000), Wil Trapp ($127,000), and Agustin Viana ($131,666) have all seen time in central midfield. Matias Sanchez is currently a highly paid benchwarmer, pulling in $230,000. That is nearly a quarter of the cap spent on holding midfielders.
In the attack, the Crew spent money to bring in Federico Higuain last year, $650,000 and a designated player contract and got Jairo Arrieta on a free transfer and handed him $225,375. That was money well spent in 2012, but both have struggled to make the same impact this year. Dominic Oduro is a value pick at a mere $122,015.
With so much tied up around the roster, the Crew have struggled to replace injured players. Gaven and Glauber are out for the year. Arrieta has missed time with National Team duty. Agustin Viana has struggled to get back to health after a hamstring injury. They've turned to Barson, Speas, Anor, Kevan George, Ethan Finlay, and Ryan Finley to pick up the slack. Results have been mixed.
Now with the season floundering and the coaching staff still looking for the right pieces, they have no money to make any adjustments. This is the team for 2013.
The concern is that this may be the team for 2014 too. The rise of multi-year guaranteed contracts means that some of the pricy under performers will be around next year, with a raise. Aaron Horton hasn't made a first team appearance since 2011, but the Crew haven't been able to cut him due to his contract.
Looking ahead, Viana and Higuain are on guaranteed contracts for 2014. The Crew likely wouldn't be looking to get rid of them anyway, but they aren't the only ones with a guaranteed spot on the roster. Guaranteed long term contracts with built in raises could hamstring the team beyond this year.
The likelihood is that Warzycha won't be around in 2014 with his contract expiring and the team dropping in the standing. Brian Bliss is reportedly on the last year of his contract as well. Even with a house cleaning, the choices made this year may still haunt this team next year.