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The Crew announces 2022 postseason roster decisions

The Black & Gold have 23 players on the current roster after making choices on player options.

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Crew offseason officially began after the Oct. 9 loss at Orlando City SC. But other than the decision to part ways with head coach Caleb Porter, there had been no offseason announcements by the Black & Gold.

That changed on Wednesday when the club made its first roster decisions in preparation for the 2023 Major League Soccer campaign. Columbus exercised the contract options on eight players while declining the options of four others. The Crew had 15 players who were already under contract for 2023, taking the roster total to 23 players at this point.

“We have a talented group of players on this roster who can contribute as we build towards a successful 2023 season,” Black & Gold president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in the release announcing the moves. “As we continue the search for our next head coach, we believe we have a solid core and a good blend of players for the incoming coaching staff to work with, from the veteran leaders who have experience winning championships, and talented young players who have shown this season that they can make a difference on the field. We are excited to welcome this group back for 2023 and look forward to the start of preseason in early January.”

Columbus exercised the options of goalkeepers Evan Bush and Brady Scott, center back and captain Jonathan Mensah, right back Steven Moreira, central midfielders Artur, Darlington Nagbe and Isaiah Parente and winger Luis Diaz. Players already under contract for the 2023 MLS season were goalkeepers Eloy Room and Patrick Schulte, center backs Milos Degenek and Josh Williams, fullbacks Mo Farsi, Jake Morris and Will Sands, central midfielders Aidan Morris and Sean Zawadzki, wingers Kevin Molino, Alex Matan and Yaw Yeboah, attacking midfielder Lucas Zelarayan and forwards Cucho Hernandez and Jacen Russell-Rowe.

Many of the players who had their options picked up were key for Columbus in 2022. The likes of Mensah, Moreira, Artur, Nagba and Diaz were regular contributors for the team that came two points short of making the MLS Cup playoffs.

The Crew declined the options for center back Jalil Anibaba, fullback Pedro Santos, midfielder James Igbekeme and forward Erik Hurtado. Fullback/midfielder Marlon Hairston and winger Derrick Etienne Jr. are out of contract with the club. Anibaba, Etienne, Hairston, Hurtado and Santos will all be eligible for MLS free agency this offseason. Igbekeme’s loan from Spanish side Real Zaragoza will expire on Dec. 31. The team did announce that it is in discussions with select players about returning in 2023.

Additionally, Black & Gold central midfielder Perry Kitchen announced his retirement after an 11-year professional career, the vast majority of which were played in MLS.

Columbus fans will keep a close eye on what happens with Santos and Etienne and the possibility of a return to the Crew next season. Despite turning 34 during the 2022 season, Santos made 29 appearances, 28 starts, for the Black & Gold this year after moving from the winger position to left back. He finished with one goal and five assists. Etienne had a career year in 2022, registering career-highs in games played (33), starts (25), goals (9) and assists (6). Etienne tied for second on the Columbus roster in goals and third in assists.

The first MLS trade window of the offseason begins on Monday, Nov. 7 at 12 p.m. ET and closes on Wednesday, Nov. 9 at 12 p.m. ET. There will then be a blackout period across the league where teams may not sign or trade players until the conclusion of the Expansion Draft on Monday, Nov. 11.

MLS free agency begins on Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 1 p.m. ET. Players eligible for free agency must be at least 24 years old in the year immediately preceding the season and have at least five years played in MLS.

The MLS Re-Entry process begins on Thursday, Nov. 17. Stage 1 takes place at 1 p.m. ET, with the end-of-year waivers taking place at 5 p.m. ET. The MLS Re-Entry process concludes with Stage 2 on Tuesday, Nov. 22 at 1 p.m. ET.

Columbus Crew’s 2022 roster:

Goalkeepers (4): Evan Bush, Eloy Room, Patrick Schulte, Brady Scott

Defenders (7): Milos Degenek, Mo Farsi, Jonathan Mensah, Steven Moreira, Jake Morris, Will Sands, Josh Williams

Midfielders (10): Artur, Luis Diaz, Kevin Molino, Alex Matan, Aidan Morris, Darlington Nagbe, Isaiah Parente, Yaw Yeboah, Sean Zawadzki, Lucas Zelarayan

Forwards (2): Cucho Hernandez, Jacen Russell-Rowe