Welcome to the Major League Soccer offseason, where the only thing inevitable is change.
Columbus Crew SC failed to make the 2019 MLS Cup playoffs, meaning the Black & Gold have reached the time of the year where they are forced to make decisions on the roster going forward. On Monday morning, the Crew announced a number of those roster decisions, exercising the contract options on six current players and reaching new contracts agreements with two players from the team’s 2019 roster.
“As we continue preparations for the 2020 season, our goal is to build a roster that can compete for championships,” Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in the team’s press release. “Although we were disappointed to miss the postseason, the team evolved throughout the year and was trending in the right direction at the end of the season. We want to build on the work done by our technical staff and players this season as we continue to solidify our identity in this new era of our Club. While it is never easy to make difficult personnel decisions at the beginning of each offseason, we are confident the roster will continue to evolve in the coming months as we look toward 2020 and beyond.”
The Black & Gold are bringing back a number of the core pieces to their roster after exercising the contract options of defenders Waylon Francis and Jonathan Mensah, versatile player Hector Jimenez and midfielders Luis Argudo, Pedro Santos and Wil Trapp. The Crew also came to terms on new contracts with goalkeeper Jon Kempin and defender Josh Williams that will see both players remain with the club through 2020.
Columbus also announced that the team declined the contract options on goalkeeper Ben Lundgaard, defender Alex Crognale and midfielders David Guzman, Edward Opoku and Eduardo Sosa. Midfielders Federico Higuain and Ricardo Clark are both out of contract. The Crew is in negotiations with out-of-contract defender Harrison Afful. According to the press release from the club. “decisions regarding options on defender Connor Maloney and forward Jordan Hamilton as well as on out-of-contract forward Romario Williams will be decided in November when roster decisions are due.”
The retention of important pieces such as Trapp, Jonathan, Santos and Jimenez comes as no surprise. Despite a difficult season, that saw the Black & Gold finish in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, this group was a consistent presence in the team’s lineup when healthy. The return of Kempin and Williams also provides veteran leadership and experience for the Crew heading into the 2020 season.
Perhaps the most awaited decision was in regards to Higuain, who finished his eighth season with the club in 2019 but played in only 14 games after suffering a torn ACL in May. The 34-year-old playmaker, who saw action in 193 regular season games, scoring 55 goals and registering 63 assists, was the catalyst for much of Columbus’ success prior to and during the Gregg Berhalter era.
Bezbatchenko and head coach Caleb Porter are scheduled to meet with the media to discuss the roster decisions on Monday afternoon following the team’s training session. Massive Report will provide updates.
MLS’s trade window is open from Nov. 11 at 1:00 p.m. ET until Nov. 13 at 8:00 p.m. ET. Following that time is a blackout period when teams cannot sign or trade players until after the Expansion Draft on Nov. 19 at 5:30 p.m. ET. MLS will release the list of players available for selection in the Expansion Draft on Nov. 16 at 10:00 a.m. ET.
Free agency begins on Nov. 25 at 3:00 p.m. ET. The MLS Re-Entry process begins with Stage 1 on Nov. 26 at 3:00 p.e. ET and Stage 2 is set to take place on Dec. 3 at 3:00 p.m. ET. A full MLS list of players eligible for free agency, waivers and the Re-Entry process will be announced by the League in the coming weeks.
Columbus Crew SC’s current 2020 roster:
Goalkeepers (2): Jon Kempin, Eloy Room
Defenders (8): Lalas Abubakar, Chris Cadden, Waylon Francis, Hector Jimenez, Aboubacar Keita, Jonathan Mensah, Milton Valenzuela, Josh Williams
Midfielders (6): Luis Argudo, Artur, Luis Diaz, Youness Mokhtar, Pedro Santos, Wil Trapp
Forwards (2): JJ Williams, Gyasi Zardes