The Major League Soccer Expansion Draft for new clubs Orlando City SC and New York City FC kicks off today at 2 p.m. Earlier this week MLS clubs released their list of protected players for the draft - those that cannot be taken by the expansion sides - but Columbus Crew SC still has some players to lose.
Here's a look at the draft, how it might go, and what it all means.
Who Crew SC Could Lose
Based on the trades that occurred earlier in the week, Crew SC seems likely to only lose one player in today's draft. There are a few candidates that may be of interest to the new sides as they begin their maiden voyage in America's top soccer league.
Eric Gehrig is likely the most desired player available to either club. The 26-year old has 46 appearances in his four-year career with the Black and Gold including a career-high 20 games played and 14 starts in 2014. Gehrig has demonstrated the ability to play in the center of defense, right back, and in central midfield in a holding position - the position he played in college. Although not the biggest of players, Gehrig makes up for it in effort and is a good leader for a new team looking to come together. Gehrig also reportedly made less than $49,000 last year so he would not be an expensive pick.
Gehrig was the player selected in the SB Nation Mock Draft.
Tyson Wahl has had his ups and downs since coming to Columbus two years ago, but had a solid second half of the season in 2014 after the departure of Giancarlo Gonzalez. At 30-years old, Wahl would be a older option to take in the draft, but he has 10 years of MLS experience, can play all along the back line, and is solid locker room guy who will go about his business and be a good example to other players.
Aaron Schoenfeld just finished his third season as a professional and it may have been the breakout year that might interest one of the expansion sides. After playing in 19 games in his first two seasons and scoring one goal, Schoenfeld returned from Crew SC's affiliate club Dayton Dutch Lions to appear 15 times and score three goals for Columbus. At 6'4", Schoenfeld provides the option of a target forward, which at the worst could be used late in a game when a team is trailing and needs a big target up top.
Player Crew SC Would Hate to Lose
Despite three years in the league, Ben Speas has only played 33 game, with 32 of those occurring over the last two seasons. Speas has struggled to find a place in the Black and Gold lineup but could be someone in which the expansion sides have interest.
When playmaker Federico Higuain missed time last season, it was Speas who filled in underneath the striker and did remarkably well. Although the stats don't necessarily support it, 2014 was Speas best year and it appears he has found a role in head coach Gregg Berhalter's system, albeit not a starting one. At only 23-years old, Speas has a long career ahead of him and could be the heir apparent to the Higuain position.
If Crew SC lose Speas, they lose the assurance of a backup to Higuain. Berhalter has faith in Speas coming in at the position and has given him his vote of confidence multiple times. Speas' departure would require the Columbus staff to find a new backup for Higuain, while also losing depth at other midfield positions - Speas' one goal in 2014 came playing on the left side of midfield.
Speas would be a more surprising selection in the draft, but could hurt Crew SC the most if taken.
Could be Best for the Player
Sometimes it's not all about how it would be for the club, but what might work best for a player. One guy that might be revitalized by a change of scenery is Jairo Arrieta. The striker did well in his third year with Crew SC - 14 starts and five goals - but never lived up to the promise of his first year in Columbus - nine goals and four assists in 18 games.
There is no question about Arrieta's work ethic and drive. He is a player that gives 100 percent whenever on the pitch, but has struggled to finish on a consistent basis for the Black and Gold. Arrieta enjoyed a unique chemistry with Higuain over his first two years for Crew SC, but others have developed that chemistry to this point.
After the addition of Kei Kamara and the 2014 performances of Schoenfeld and rookie Adam Bedell, the club did not pick up Arrieta's contract after 2014 so he won't be back for Columbus, but a move elsewhere in MLS might get him back to his goal scoring form of 2012.