Columbus Crew SC announced the team’s contract option decisions this afternoon, after the 1 p.m. deadline set by Major League Soccer to submit the decisions to the league. With 13 players under guaranteed contracts, there appears to be an evolution of the Crew SC roster rather than wholesale changes.
Eight players saw their options exercised. Goalkeepers Jon Kempin and Ben Lundgaard were brought back. Kempin was Zack Steffen’s primary backup for most of the 2018 season and made five starts in place of the U.S. international. Kempin provides continuity if Steffen’s rumored transfer goes through.
Columbus brings back a lot of experience on the backline with Gaston Sauro and Josh Williams having their options exercised. The two center backs combined for 28 appearances and 22 starts. Young depth options Alex Crognale and Connor Maloney also will return.
Midfielders Luis Argudo and Niko Hansen also were brought back with their options exercised, while defender Lalas Abubakar earned a new contract.
Crew SC declined the options on five players. Second-year goalkeeper Logan Ketterer failed to make an MLS appearance for the team in his two years with the team — although he did play in the one U.S. Open Cup match in 2018. Kempin took the backup role and there was little playing time for the young keeper.
Ricardo Clark was signed as a free agent before the 2018 season and earned $125,000 according to the MLS Player Union salary release. Crew SC stated they are in discussions with Clark to return to the team.
Mike Grella’s option was also declined. Coming over in a post-Re-Entry Draft trade with the Colorado Rapids at the end of 2017, Grella never could recapture his New York Red Bull form. After recovering from a serious knee injury suffered while with the Red Bulls, Grella had a goal and an assist in 12 games, five starts, for Columbus.
Third-year winger Cristian Martinez won the starting winger job to begin 2018, but soon fell out of favor. He made 11 stars and 14 appearances, tallying two assists. He failed to make a regular season appearance after a June 13th start, only appearing in the playoff loss to New York.
Last year’s playoff hero Adam Jahn also failed to make an impact in 2018. He make eight appearances, tallying 68 minutes before ultimate going on loan to USL side Oklahoma City. Crew SC brought in Patrick Mullins to augment the team’s striker depth, further reducing chances for playing time.
The roster stands at 22 players with the addition of 13 players guaranteed contracts. Steffen is joined by Harrison Afful, Hector Jimenez, and Jonathan Mensah on the backline. Midfielders Justin Meram, Pedro Santos, Artur, Wil Trapp, Eduardo Sosa, Edward Opoku, and Federico Higuain were guaranteed for 2018. The forward options will also look similar with both Gyasi Zardes and Patrick Mullins returning.
While those players are currently under contract, there is plenty of time for roster moves to be made. With head coach Gregg Berhalter likely on his way to the U.S. Men’s National Team, a new coach and sporting director could look to change a roster that has stayed rather consistent over the last several years.