The Columbus Crew will be without the team’s starting goalkeeper Eloy Room for the first game of the 2023 Major League Soccer season on Saturday when the Black & Gold travel to take on the Philadelphia Union. Head coach Wilfried Nancy confirmed Room would not play for Columbus this weekend after missing the last week of training.
“He won’t be available,” Nancy said at the Crew’s annual media day on Tuesday. “So we planned that already, so we will adjust.”
Initially, it was reported by The Columbus Dispatch’s Bailey Johnson that Room was not with the team for the final week of preseason while dealing with “visa/immigration” issues. After tweets went out during Nancy’s press conference, Ben Feree, who used to cover the Crew for various outlets, questioned whether Room’s visa issues were due to “contraband that was seized from his car by the Ohio Highway Patrol in September of 2022.” Room was going 84 miles per hour in a 64 mile per hour zone and, according to court records, in addition to receiving a citation for speeding, “contraband” was seized from Room’s vehicle. Room initially pled not guilty to the speeding charge, but on Oct. 18, 2022, changed his plea and paid $202 in fines and court costs.
After requesting comment from the club, it was clarified that there was an entry error and that no contraband was found or taken from Room’s vehicle after the traffic stop.
Room was then pulled over a second time in October and while Feree found a record of the goalkeeper failing to appear for his court date, the club said the matter was closed in December after Room paid a fine and there remains nothing active in the court system dealing with the Curaçao international.
A Crew spokesperson said on Tuesday prior to Nancy’s comments that Room was working to get his green card. A scheduled appointment in the Netherlands dealing with the green card process is why Room departed the team last week during the preseason in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This is not abnormal for players who are attempting to gain their green card and neither the club nor the player has control over when appointments are available.
The reasoning behind Room wanting to get his green card now has to do with MLS roster rules. According to these rules, each MLS team has eight international roster spots but those spots can be traded. The Crew acquired a ninth international roster spot in a trade with Sporting Kansas City in January but Room getting his green card means the Black & Gold would have more flexibility to add another international player to the roster.
A recent change to MLS rules means that Room must get his green card prior to Friday’s roster compliance deadline, which occurs at 8 p.m. ET. If he waited until after that deadline, Room would remain as an international player on Columbus’ roster through the 2023 MLS season, despite having his green card.
So, the reason Room won’t start for the Crew on Saturday is due to missing training the last week as he returned home to finish the process of getting his green card. All speeding violations from last year have been resolved and, while the goalkeeper may want to drive slower in future, he has no legal issues hanging over his head.
As for the Black & Gold, Nancy is expected to turn to veteran goalkeeper Evan Bush. Bush is in his third season with Columbus and 12th overall in MLS, having made six appearances for the club and 294 across three teams. Bush did not appear in an MLS game last season but did start in a game at Philadelphia in 2021, a 3-0 loss for the Crew.
The Black & Gold will hope for a better result as Bush returns to the goal on Saturday night against the Union. That game is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET.