Every year the list gets larger. Free agency wasn’t a thing in Major League Soccer until 2015, when the league reformed its regulations and allowed players who are at least 28 years old and have at least eight years of MLS service to decide their futures once they are out of contract.
Columbus Crew SC used the mechanism to sign midfielder Ricardo Clark before the start of the 2018 season and with the 2019 class released by the league on Monday, here a few options the Black & Gold could explore when free agency officially starts, after Tuesday’s Expansion Draft.
Franklin is an established veteran with nearly 300 MLS matches, two MLS Cups and two MLS All-Star Game selections under his belt and even if his role had diminished over the years, he would still be a capable backup for Harrison Afful. The 33-year-old right-back played in just 11 matches with the Vancouver Whitecaps but the fact that he’s more of a defensive-minded fullback makes a potential signing even more intriguing as he could provide some variation to Afful’s offensive-based game.
Columbus could certainly use extra an extra body at the defensive midfield position and Tchani arises as one of the most appealing options available. The physical Cameroonian had the best years of his MLS career in Columbus between 2011 and 2016 and a return to a familiar environment in a backup capacity to Wil Trapp and Artur could be all he needs to bounce back from a frustrating 2018 season, in which he was traded from Vancouver to the Chicago Fire and subsequently waived. At 29, he’s still on the right side of the 30’s and is just one year removed from a 2017 season in which he scored four goals for the Whitecaps.
Seriously, why not just bringing another Ghanaian to Columbus? Again. Aside from his endless Papa John’s references, Oduro can add some much-needed pace to the Black & Gold’s front line. Playing as a forward, he had a solid stint with Crew SC, scoring 13 goals in 45 matches in 2013 and 2014, but would be more useful right now as a winger, a spot in which Columbus is shorthanded after the departures of Mike Grella and Cristian Martinez. Oduro will turn 34 during the season and is coming off a year in which he played just 10 matches, but with well-managed minutes and a limited role, he could be an interesting addition.
Wallace could be another option to fill a backup role on the wings. The 30-year-old Costa Rican international is certainly not a popular name in Columbus after he scored the game-winning goal for the Portland Timbers against the Crew in the 2015 MLS Cup Final, but his two-way game could be a good fit with the Black & Gold. Wallace is fresh from playing in the 2018 FIFA World Cup and holds international experience playing in Brazil and Portugal and could help bring a veteran presence to a locker room that remains relatively young.
It’s hard to see Ozzie leaving the Sounders, the only team he’s ever played for in MLS. But if it happens, Columbus should try to lure him to the Buckeye State. The 33-year-old Cuban has logged over 300 MLS matches and has played in the postseason in each of his 10 seasons in the league, as well as captaining the Sounders for a while. His leadership would be valuable to Crew’s locker room, but having a player with a fiery personality could backfire if he’s not ready to accept a backup role.
These players all makes sense for Crew SC on a very basic level, but it will be up to the new general manager and head coach to work together to shape this team’s roster in 2019. Once those roles have been filled, we will have a much better idea of what players will fit in the regime in Columbus.