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Columbus Crew SC exercises options, makes cuts, as 2016 already begins to take shape

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The Black & Gold made roster announcements Monday, with two homegrowns departing but not many surprises

Defender Emanuel Pogatetz was one of four Columbus Crew SC players who did not have their contracts extended on Monday.
Defender Emanuel Pogatetz was one of four Columbus Crew SC players who did not have their contracts extended on Monday.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Less than 24 hours after falling to the Portland Timbers in the 2015 MLS Cup, Columbus Crew SC began to shape its 2016 roster.

The Black & Gold announced via press release Monday afternoon that they have exercised the option on the contract of 11 players, while also letting the contract of four players lapse.

The club picked up the contract option on midfielders Wil Trapp, Justin Meram, Hector Jimenez and Romain Gall; defenders Harrison Afful, Michael Parkhurst, Waylon Francis, Chad Barson, Chris Klute, and Sergio Campbell; and goalkeeper Brad Stuver.

Five of those players were regular members of the 2015 starting 11.

Neither defender Emanuel Pogatetz or midfielder Kristinn Steindorsson will return to Columbus, as their contract options were declined. Neither is a surprising move, with Pogatetz starting as a key member of the roster but losing favor mid-season and being a nonfactor the rest of the campaign. Steindorsson never grabbed a hold of a role, and earned even less of an opportunity once Cedrick Mabwati joined the team mid-season.

Two other players with long Crew SC histories will also be moving on, as the contracts of midfielder Ben Speas and goalkeeper Matt Lampson were both allowed to expire. Both were homegrown products, with Speas signing a professional contract in 2012 after a college career with behemoth programs Akron and North Carolina. He was the 2011 NCAA College Cup Most Valuable Player and Soccer America's College Player of the Year that same season. He made 41 appearances for Crew SC, scoring two goals.

A survivor of Hodgkin's lymphoma, Lampson was loved by many Columbus fans for his work in the community. He signed a pro contract in December of 2011 after a college career at Northern Illinois and Ohio State. He made 16 career appearances for the Black & Gold and represented the team twice in the MLS Homegrown Game during the league's all-star festivities.

"2016 preparations are underway and our aim is to keep the core group of the team together while being in position to make additional roster improvements for next season," Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter said in the press release. "While decisions to part with players are never easy, we’d like to thank all the players for their contributions throughout the year."

The club is expected to make decisions on three other players this offseason, as discussions are ongoing with midfielder Kevan George and forwards Jack McInerney and Aaron Schoenfeld, who are all out of contract.

The players who did not make the cut now enter Major League Soccer's oft-confusing waiver process. Pogatetz, Speas and Steindorsson will be available for selection in Wednesday's MLS Waiver Draft. Lampson is eligible to be a part of the MLS Re-Entry Process, the first stage of which begins Friday.

With those personnel moves complete, here is the current Crew SC roster as it takes shape ahead of the 2016 campaign.

Goalkeepers (2): Steve Clark, Brad Stuver

Defenders (8): Harrison Afful, Chad Barson, Sergio Campbell, Waylon Francis, Chris Klute, Michael Parkhurst, Gaston Sauro, Tyson Wahl

Midfielders (10): Ethan Finlay, Romain Gall, Federico Higuain, Hector Jimenez, Cedrick Mabwati, Justin Meram, Mohammed Saeid, Ben Swanson, Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp

Forwards (1): Kei Kamara