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Crew SC coming into focus after a week indoors

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With live games on the horizon, the 2016 Crew SC season is becoming clear.

Columbus Crew SC left the cold of Ohio behind as they headed to Arizona. After a full week of practice at SuperKick in Lewis Center, 2016 started to come into sharp focus.

Don’t Expect a big signing…

Currently Crew SC’s roster sits at 24 with draftees Chase Minter and Marshall Hollingsworth joined by trialist Matt Pacifici rounding out camp. No new trialists will join in Tucson. Gregg Berhalter says he thinks the roster will be at 27. Reading between the lines, that means Minter, Hollingsworth, and Pacifici are the odds on favorites to join the roster.

The team was impressed with trialist Florian Pick, but the team is currently out of international slots. Berhalter said that Waylon Francis is close to getting his Green Card to free up an international slot. Perhaps Pick reenters the picture.

As for Berhalter’s decision at a 27 man roster? It’s likely down to MLS budget constraints. The team’s salary budget has been used up with the incoming overseas players. Even if salaries were low, transfer fees hit the budget too.

…unless someone leaves

While the team appears set and there is limited budget to make moves, the team will act to bring in a player if a current player leaves according to Berhalter. He didn’t indicate anything was imminent, only that the nature of soccer is that teams are always looking to buy players. With European transfer windows closed, it would be big spending Chinese teams or another MLS team as the most likely culprits to poach from the Crew SC roster.

None of that points towards Crew SC adding Radamel Falcao, who’s name was once again linked to Columbus. The team probably has targets to replace existing players, but the big money that would be used to sign Falcao is likely used by Emil Larsen and Ola Kamara.

The Salary Budget

Crew SC probably don’t have significant budget space to work with. They’ve prudently spread the spending around the field. Ethan Finlay received a nice raise over the offseason. Emil Larsen is likely a value pickup on the world market, but probably takes in a salary around $200k. Ola Kamara’s signing required a transfer fee. The team can spread that over the length of the contract, but that still pushes his budget number higher. Adding in free agent additions Conor Casey and Corey Ashe chews up space too.

Any remaining budget space is also likely earmarked for Kei Kamara. Kamara is asking for an improved contract. His current deal is bought down below the Designated Player level. An improved deal would push it into DP territory. That means there’s an increased budget hit. Crew SC are likely saving a little money to get an improved deal in place for Kamara.

Kei’s deal

Kei Kamara wants a new deal and wants it before the season. Crew SC has offered a new deal. And that’s it. That’s the latest. It’s unclear on what Columbus is offering, but it doesn’t appear that Kei has immediately accepted the new terms. That means the situation is unsettled.

Berhalter was opaque in his responses surrounding Kamara or player signings in general, but he didn’t seem to be reigned in by artificial timelines such as the start of the season. There’s the distinct chance that both sides come to an agreement and the paperwork is with the league, but the lack of immediate movement certainly gives pause for concern.

Gametime

Don’t read too much into Crew SC’s games this week against Kansas City and Salt Lake. Berhalter and the coaching staff will be playing exclusively mixed squads. Then the team will get down to sorting out the depth chart. Berhalter refused to tip his hand, but he is most pleased that there has been absolutely no complacency from his team. That means fierce competition for playing time.

By the time Crew SC play Swope Park Rangers on February 24th, the staff will be forming a good idea of who the first team is heading into the season opener in Portland.