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Quiet offseason? The Crew has adopted a patient approach to transfers in Wilfried Nancy’s first year

The Black & Gold never planned to add many players or big names this offseason and allow the first-year head coach to get familiar with his team.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

To say it’s been a quiet offseason for the Columbus Crew wouldn’t be completely incorrect. The Crew did appoint a new head coach in Wilfried Nancy and brought in essentially a new staff, which is quite the undertaking, but when it comes to incoming transfers, there hasn’t been much business done.

This was part of the plan for the Black & Gold. After parting ways with Caleb Porter, who served as the club’s head coach for the last four seasons, the priority early in the offseason was to find the right man to take over as manager. President and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko and his staff believe they did that when they named Nancy as the team’s eighth full-time head coach.

From there, Nancy wanted time to familiarize himself with the group. During Nancy’s introductory press conference, Bezbatchenko said he had brought up some targets to the new boss but Nancy had turned them down. This partially had to do with the new head coach’s specific vision for what he wants from his team, but also his desire to work with the assembled team first before making decisions on transfers.

“For the moment, I’m really happy with the roster,” Nancy said last month. “The idea, like I told you before, is to know the players, to know the way they’re training, to know their habits and everything like that. And after that, for sure, we always want to improve the team. But before improving the team, it’s really important for me to know everybody, as a player but also as a person. Yes, we have a couple of ideas but for the moment this is not the point. The point is to see all the players I have for the moment and I’m happy for that and we’ll see in the future if we need to do something.”

As Massive Report reported during the coaching search, the Crew front office is of the belief that the Black & Gold remain in a title window. Columbus added Designated Player Cucho Hernandez last summer to pair with fellow DPs Lucas Zelarayan in the attack and Darlington Nagbe in the midfield. The thinking is a full season of possibly two of the Major League Soccer’s most dangerous attackers and more creativity will see an offense that scored the 19th most goals in 2022 take a major leap. Defensively, the Crew allowed the fourth-fewest goals in MLS a year ago and most of the contributors on that end of the pitch return in 2023.

There is also a strong belief in Nancy and where he can take this team through coaching. Bezbatchenko has been clear that while the Black & Gold can, and have, spent money on players, Columbus will not be among the league’s top spenders when it comes to transfers.

Last season, Nancy took a CF Montreal side that many expected to struggle to a third-place finish in MLS’s overall standings, just two points behind LAFC and the Philadelphia Union, the two teams that played for the MLS Cup in November. This was a team with fewer stars and resources than the Crew that made it to the Eastern Conference semifinals before losing to New York City FC.

Sources close to the club told Massive Report during the preseason that no major deals should be expected before the 2023 MLS season kicked off later this month. Because of all of the above factors, as well as not having the roster mechanisms to add another star, any additions made to the roster would be depth signing, players who can make an impact but likely aren’t immediate starters for the Black & Gold.

This has been the way Columbus has operated the transfer market so far this offseason. Excluding MLS SuperDraft picks, the Crew has signed two players since the 2022 season concluded in free agent left back Jimmy Madranda and former Aberdeen forward Christian Ramirez. While Madranda could be an opening day starter at left back – depending on how Nancy elects to line up his team – Ramirez was brought in to compete with second-year striker Jacen Russell-Rowe as a backup to Hernandez.

Nancy is also keen to give young players opportunities. Crew 2, the Black & Gold’s second team, won the MLS NEXT Pro championship last year and Nancy chose to use the preseason to get a long look at a number of players that were key in that title run, giving them the opportunity to fill in possible holes before potentially looking to bring in any players from the outside.

There is an argument to be made that a team that hasn’t made the MLS Cup playoffs in two years should be active in reshaping the roster in order to get back to the postseason. But the standings show that Columbus was not far away from qualifying in either 2021 or 2022 after winning MLS Cup in 2020.

The Crew put its faith in Nancy this offseason and the coach, in conjunction with the front office, has decided there is not a need for a massive overhaul to what is believed to be a talented roster. Black & Gold fans will wait and see how this approach works beginning in late February.