It has been a busy offseason for Columbus Crew SC.
Beginning in October, shortly following the completion of the Major League Soccer regular season, defender Tyson Wahl and forward Conor Casey retired.
A month later, the Black & Gold declined the options of goalkeepers Steve Clark and Matt Pacifici, defenders Corey Ashe and Chad Barson and midfielder Cedrick Mabwati.
Crew SC not only needed to replace the many defenders that departed the club, but also wanted to improve the team’s defense from a season ago.
Columbus has done that with the additions of center-backs Jonathan Mensah from Anzhi Makhachkala and rookies Alex Crognale (Maryland) and Lalas Abubakar (Dayton). They also added wingback Jukka Raitala and versatile veteran Josh Williams.
As the offseason progressed, the Black & Gold moved up the field, adding midfielders Mohammed Abu from Stromsgodset and Abuchi Obinwa and rookie forward Niko Hansen (New Mexico).
Did you get all that?
Well, hang on as it seems Crew SC may not be done making moves before the start of the 2017 season.
“We’re getting there,” sporting director and head coach Gregg Berhalter said on a conference call Wednesday. “We’re close to complete. I would say that there’s chance that we’d add anywhere from one to three players before the season starts. That’s going to depend on a number of factors. But we’re getting there. The guys are looking good.”
The club is currently completing the first stage of preseason in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Berhalter has used that time to see not only his new players, but also the returners in game action, something the team has not typically had in previous preseasons.
Crew SC was recently linked with Brazilian midfielder Artur. The 20 year old is under contract with Sao Paulo FC, where the team is currently training.
While Columbus likely is set on the defensive side of the ball, and most likely in the central midfield, especially if the Artur deal goes through, additions could be made elsewhere.
Ola Kamara and Adam Jahn are the only two true forwards on the roster as Hansen appears to be more of a winger. Crew SC also doesn’t have a veteran goalkeeper among the bunch, as Brad Stuver, Zack Steffen and rookie Logan Ketterer have a combined two MLS matches played (and the traditional keeper No. 1 conveniently remains vacant).
This is also the — potentially likely — possibility that the Black & Gold could see more players depart. With numbers already tight, especially with international spots, it would not be surprising to see one or more players dealt and certainly a couple will not make the 2017 roster.
The club returns to Columbus this weekend before training locally for three days. The group then heads to Charleston, South Carolina for the Carolina Challenge Cup.
Berhalter will used the rest of preseason to evaluate this group of players and make a decision on what else might be needed.
Crew SC must be roster compliant by the end of preseason, before the team opens the 2017 MLS regular season at home against the Chicago Fire on March 4.