Columbus Crew SC hasn’t seen this much “drama” since Kei Kamara and Federico Higuain had a dispute on the field of MAPFRE Stadium over who would take a penalty kick.
A year removed from that spat that brought more interest to the club than hosting the MLS Cup Final the year prior and there’s another issue in Crew SC Land. This one has nothing to do with penalty kicks or players disagreeing — as far as we know.
No, this time it deals with Dilly Duka, a player who was brought in for his second stint in black and gold a year ago when playmaker Federico Higuain went down with an injury that ultimately cost him most of the season.
Duka was seen as a potential replacement for Higuain while he was out and a player that could contend for the three attacking midfield positions once he returned. At the very least, the seven-year MLS veteran could provide attacking depth for Columbus.
In his return, Duka made 15 appearances, five starts, scored one goal and added an assist. He was brought back for 2017, but has yet to see the field in an MLS match. Last Saturday, Duka made the bench on gameday for the first time this season.
Clearly Duka is frustrated. It appeared he turned to social media to vent that frustration on Monday, but clarified to Massive Report that was not his intent with his tweet.
The 27 year old also took exception to how Gregg Berhalter portrayed the situation to the media and now it appears Duka is in the head coach’s dog house.
Duka was not present at the team’s training facility on Thursday after the group was off Wednesday. Berhalter updated the situation.
“I spoke to Dilly and we cleared the air,” he said. “We talked this weekend, we talked about the gameday roster and we didn’t see him being in the gameday roster and it was a decision that we’re going to reconvene with him on Sunday.”
Berhalter also clarified that Duka did not take part in training on Thursday and would not do so on Friday.
Just one week after making the 18-man gameday roster for the first time, it has already been determined that Duka will be left out on Saturday. While the head coach did not use the word suspension, this sounds very much like one.
It’s unknown what is next for Duka. Last season, Kamara was initially suspended for one game — that one was announced as a suspension — and then traded to the New England Revolution a few days after he told the media he disagreed with the suspension.
If Berhalter wants to part ways with Duka, it will not be that simple. For one, the transfer window does not open until July 10, which means the midfielder will be with Crew SC for at least two more matches.
Second, Kamara spoke out following a 22-goal season. He was desired and teams, including the Revs, had inquired about him before anything became public about his feud with Higuain.
Duka was not on a roster before the Black & Gold came calling last June and has done little more than train this year. Would another MLS team be interested in him? Possibly, but likely not for much.
If there are no trading partners, there is the option to cut Duka, but that will cost Crew SC the remainder of the player’s $175,000 contract this season.
The final possibility is Berhalter decides to keep Duka if the two can put this behind them. While he has not seen the field, Duka continues to take part in training and there have been no reported incidents with him not doing what is asked.
There are plenty of unknowns in this situation, but what is certain is Columbus will be without Duka for the weekend game with Atlanta United at MAPFRE Stadium. For much of the season, this wouldn’t be an issue, but with the injury to rookie winger Niko Hansen, the position’s depth was already being tested.
Saturday’s match kicks off at 7:30 p.m., is military appreciation night and will feature postgame fireworks.