After a devastating end to the 2022 Major League Soccer season, the Columbus Crew is already working in the offseason to make the upcoming 2023 season better than the last. The changes in player personnel is well underway, with the club announcing several departures. This includes players who are out of contract and are eligible for the 2023 MLS Expansion Draft for the newly minted St. Louis City SC.
In terms of the aforementioned Expansion Draft, each club submitted a list of eligible players that are up for selection. Once a player is selected from a club, the team is no longer in the draft and St. Louis can no longer select players from the club.
Five teams are exempt from losing players to the Expansion Draft, having had a player selected by Charlotte FC in the 2021 Expansion Draft. These teams are Austin FC, Atlanta United, D.C. United, LAFC and New York City FC. The remaining 23 teams were permitted to elect 12 players for protection.
Homegrown players and those who are on Generation Adidas contracts are automatically protected. For Columbus, midfielders Isaiah Parente, Aidan Morris, Sean Zawadzki, fullback Will Sands and forward Jacen Russell-Rowe are deemed Homegrown players, while goalkeeper Patrick Schulte is protected through the Generation Adidas program.
The Crew elected to protect goalkeeper Eloy Room, defenders Josh Williams, Jonathan Mensah, Mo Farsi, Steven Moreira and Milos Degenek, midfielders Darlington Nagbe, Artur, Lucas Zelarayan and Luis Diaz and forward Cucho Hernandez.
That leaves players such as defender Jalil Anibaba, goalkeepers Evan Bush and Brady Scott, wingers Derrick Etienne Jr. and Yaw Yeboah fullback/midfielder Marlon Hairston, forward Erik Hurtado, midfielders James Igbekeme, Kevin Molino and Pedro Santos and up for grabs for City.
If St. Louis was to pick a from the Black & Gold, realistically two players could be useful.
Etienne, who was a prolific winger this past season, having one of his best years to date, scored nine goals and registered six assists while appearing in 33 games (25 starts) for Columbus. In his three years at the club, Etienne was able to rack up 11 goals and 13 assists, using his pace to sneak behind an opposition's backline.
Santos, a converted midfielder to fullback for the crew last year, is another solid option to snag away from the Black & Gold. Although the Portuguese winger saw his fair share of injuries this past season, that doesn’t overpower the work rate and abilities that have proven to be an immense help for a team in MLS. While only recording one goal and five assists in 29 appearances (28 starts) in 2022, Santos has the capability of servicing crosses from various places on the pitch for goal-scoring opportunities.
The 2022 Expansion Draft is set for Friday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. ET. Fans can watch the draft on mlssoccer.com, the MLS App, Twitter and Twitch, as well as St. Louis City’s Youtube.