The Columbus Crew SC coaching staff wasn't given long to mourn the loss of MLS Cup before they had to get back to work. Sporting director and head coach Gregg Berhalter had to decide by Monday who would stay and who would go for the 2016 season.
We have already covered the details, but here are some of my thoughts about these roster decisions.
1. The Biggest Surprise of the Bunch Wasn't Much of a Surprise
Berhalter and his staff allowed the contract of midfielder Ben Speas to expire. This shouldn't be much of a surprise as the Ohio native has made just 21 appearances and scored just one goal over the last two seasons, but what we continued to hear about the player is what makes it surprising.
During his time in Columbus, Berhalter has praised Speas for his ability, saying over and over that his lack of playing time is due to playing the same role as Federico Higuain. Maybe we should have known this was more tongue and cheek after Speas worked to move out wide this year in order to get more playing time, yet Berhalter continued to bring in other players at the position.
I watched Speas play in college and I've seen him develop as an MLS player. I think in the right situation, one where he is seeing the field on a regular basis, Speas could turn into a solid midfielder in this league. It will be tough watching a Homegrown product suit up for someone else, but he deserves the opportunity to move on and attempt to get his career going.
2. The Pogatetz Debacle
Emanuel Pogatetz was brought in late last year to replace the departed Giancarlo Gonzalez and was expected to be the partner at center back with Michael Parkhurst going forward. For the first third of the season, this plan was enacted.
After starting the first 10 games of the year, where Crew SC recorded just three shutouts, Pogatetz was a substitute for two out of three games over a match-congested part of the season. After that, the defender released a status on Facebook complaining about his lack of playing time.
Although Berhalter and Pogatetz said the air was cleared between the two of them, with Pogatetz admitting Facebook is not the forum for those complaints, the center back only started five more games the remainder of the season and made just seven appearances.
It has been clear since July that Pogatetz would not hang around Columbus following this season and the early-August signing of center back Gaston Sauro sealed his fate. Monday's announcement that his contract option was declined was the final nail in the coffin.
The fiery former Middlesbrough FC defender showed promise in his time in Columbus, but his tenure will always be a matter of what if.
3. Maybe it Was Never Meant to Be
Kristinn Steindorsson was brought to Columbus to add depth to the Crew SC midfield and push wingers Justin Meram and Ethan Finlay for playing time. Steindorsson's first, and possibly last, MLS season ended in disappointment.
He finished the year with 21 appearances, but only four starts and no goals or assists. For a player that had worked in his way into the Icelandic international picture before joining the Black & Gold, this is a major letdown.
The always soft-spoken Steindorsson never had the physicality necessary to play in MLS. He doesn't possess the speed to run by defenders or the technical ability to beat them one-on-one. While Berhalter often doesn't miss with his evaluations and signings, this was one that just never worked out.
4. Second Biggest Surprise
At first look I didn't notice it, but a second review of the players Crew SC picked up the option on did have a surprise. Midfielder Romain Gall will remain with the club for a third year after joining from Lorient in early August of 2014.
While Gall is only 20-year old and has a lot of his career in front of him, he did not make a single appearance for Crew SC in 2015 after playing three times and showing some potential late last season. The midfielder hasn't found a spot with the Black & Gold and was sent on loan during this year.
Berhalter's decision to bring him back over someone like Steindorsson or Speas means he sees something in the midfielder. Or he was just the cheaper option.
5. Jack Mac Might be Back in the Attack
It was an interesting move when Jack McInerney was traded to Crew SC from the Montreal Impact in early August for just a second-round pick. The proven MLS striker didn't seem to have a place in Columbus' attack with Kei Kamara already occupying the lone striker role.
McInerney proved to be a valuable backup. While Kamara remained healthy, there was always a chance - and there will be going forward - he could come down with an injury that could rule him out. Having a more than capable replacement on the bench like McInerney is a luxury to have.
The issue is, McInerney was guaranteed more than $300,000 in 2015. The Black & Gold are in contract negotiations with the striker, but he will have to be willing to take a pay cut and be okay with that reserve role for at least a another more year.
If he does agree to terms with Crew SC, it could help setup well for 2016.
6. Bye, Bye Matt Lampson
The cheers of "You'll never beat Matt Lampson," didn't ring out at MAPFRE Stadium too many times over the course of the goalkeeper's career with Crew SC. Over four years with the club, Lampson made 16 appearances, but has not seen time since Berhalter took over.
The moment he may be most remembered for, and one he likely will always remember, is when he was scored on directly from a corner by Thierry Henry, but I will miss Matt with the Black & Gold.
Lampson and I have known each other since we were 12ish-years old and played against each other periodically and with each other in the Olympic Development Program. At the time, he and I were the same height then he grew a lot and I'm still waiting for a growth spurt.
Lampson played well in limited time with Crew SC and as a local product was always liked by the fans. Here's to hoping a Columbus native lands elsewhere and has success throughout the rest of his career.