It began with center back Amro Tarek, who asked for his released from Columbus Crew SC back in early May. After making just one appearance for the Black & Gold in the opening portion of the Major League Soccer season, the center back was ready to go. A week later, Kei Kamara - who tied for the MLS lead with 22 goals in 2015 - was traded to the New England Revolution after speaking out in regards to teammate Federico Higuain.
Could there be a third Crew SC player leaving Columbus in the first half of the 2016 season? If reports from the Danish press are to be believed, midfield Emil Larsen might be that player.
@krislandis Danish media reporting that Emil Larsen is on his way home to Denmark.— Jonas Sand (@jonas_sand) June 13, 2016
Larsen was acquired by the Black & Gold in January and was expected by head coach Gregg Berhalter to push for playing time in one of the three attacking midfielder roles. After making his MLS debut in the third match of the season, Larsen has appeared just two other times for Crew SC, totaling 31 minutes on the year.
When asked about the report that Larsen was looking for a move away, Berhalter neither confirmed nor denied the rumor.
"Obviously we can’t control what’s in the media in Denmark," the head coach and sporting director told Massive Report on Monday. "He went with the Olympic team and he did quite well. We just have to take it as it comes. But what’s important is that guys want to be here and guys are happy being here. Then we’ll take it as we comes."
Larsen recently scored a hat trick for the Danish Under-23s in a 6-2 victory over Nigeria as part of the Suwon International Youth Tournament in South Korea.
While Berhalter wouldn’t speak specifically to the report, he was complimentary of his Danish midfielder’s work, even if it hasn't resulted in many minutes for Columbus.
"He’s doing well in training," Berhalter said. "It just becomes difficult to break in and you’re looking for a guy to get a chance and then take it, even though it’s with limited minutes.
"In the time that a person plays, if they’re not in the lineup, they need to take advantage of that."
Crew SC fans saw something similar in a player who saw little time as recently as two seasons ago. After playing just 73 minutes over the first 10 games of 2014, Ethan Finlay came on for 10 minutes at the Portland Timbers and took advantage of his chance with a goal in a 3-3 draw. A week later Finlay was rewarded with a start and added another finish and the following week scored registered an assist.
Finlay is now on the radar of U.S. National Team manager Jurgen Klinsmann, earning three caps for his country since the start of 2016.
Berhalter is realistic. He does not expect every player to capitalize on an opportunity like Finlay did, but he does believe if you want to play for Crew SC, you have to make an impact in some way when the chance is given.
"You want it to be result orientated a little bit, but it’s also the play," Berhalter said. "We’re always level headed about that. If he’s doing a great job and just is unlucky not to score, we can live with that. So that’s what we’re looking at."
One issue for Larsen has been finding his specific role. When he was first signed, Berhalter indicated he could play any of the three attacking midfield roles, yet it took watching him in person to learn his best spot.
"Ideally I think he’s most comfortable on the left coming to the inside," he said. "That’s what we’ve learned. I think he can play either one of the other ones, the No. 10 or the right side, but I think he’s most comfortable on the left."
Currently Justin Meram seems to have a lock on the left wing and Higuain will roam from the middle when healthy. Finlay was the starter on the right, but after a slow start to the season, Cedrick Mabwati has taken his spot on the wing.
It is easy to see why Larsen would be unhappy with the limited minutes he’s seen. For a team averaging just over one goal scored per game, a player like Larsen, who continues to show his goal scoring ability on the international level, seems to be someone Crew SC would want to hold on to.
If the reports are true and Larsen believes he can find minutes elsewhere though, it could be a premature end to another Black & Gold player’s tenure in Columbus.