Sunday, July 10, 2016

Crew Roster in Shambles

They say to not lose track of the basics. For some teams that might be as simple as player positioning, passing, shooting. For others, you have to walk it back further. Being able to travel a full roster of 18 players is as basic as it gets and the Crew were not able to do that for the second time this year.

Columbus has injuries to four players, which hurts, but MLS teams are allowed to carry up to 28 players on their senior roster. The league also allows teams to have an affiliate or a "II" (reserve) team in USL (3rd tier) to help in these situations. 

Right now Crew SC are sitting on 24 players. Let's do the quick math as to why things have gotten here. How about we start with recent player disputes / mishandles with the organization...

1. Emanuel Pogatetz - Option officially declined on December 7, 2015. Just a day after the MLS Cup final (league rules, likely). But problems arose much earlier in the year. Somehow he managed to get into the coaches doghouse and never made it back out. The drama / weirdness lasted most of the year last year, which is why he's on this list. Never want to let that stuff fester.

2. Romain Gall - Waived in February 2016. Not so much a dispute (though, there was some smoke) as it was just a failure to do anything with a promising young player that they went after (same thing with Ben Swanson, you could say). Columbus, as an organization, hung him out to dry. He's playing with Nykopings BIS (Swedish first division) right now.

3. Amro Tarek - Waived, May 5, 2016. This one just didn't work out. He wanted playing time (he totally would have had it by now!), but didn't get it. He must have been promised time. He's back playing in Egypt.

4. Kei Kamara - Traded May 12, 2016. We all know this one. Open dispute about an incident on the field with Federico Higuain. The team made it seem like it was more deeply rooted than that, but they were the one's that gave him a big DP contract a couple months prior. 

5. Emil Larsen... sent back in his homeland due to a dispute over playing time. Technically, he is still on the roster, but we will not be seeing him back. From Transfermarkt to FIFA 16 and Football Manager, everything pointed to him being a starter. He didn't get his time. Got chirpy and Crew sent him packing, likely because they learned a lesson from the Pogatetz situation.

Now, on to the current roster. Key missing players due to injury, suspension or international travel.

1. Federico Higuain - Sports Hernia. He's out for a few more weeks still. Likely longer. It's amazing how much of the midfield he held together. It's exposing Ethan Finlay (and, perhaps, Wil Trapp). Shoes too big to fill right now.

2. Gaston Sauro - Knee. Key to helping the team get to the MLS Cup last year. Smart player, but appears brittle. With the team running off Amro Tarek, it leaves depth at center back completely thin.

3. Conor Casey - Probably various injuries. This signing felt like an old MLS vet signing a buddy. It's fine, but Casey shouldn't really be considered a viable option behind your starter. He is right now, so his injury is costing the team.

4. Cristian Martinez - International Duty. 

5. Matt Pacifici - Injury. 3rd string keeper.

6. Ben Swanson - Caught in no-mans land.

7. Tyson Wahl - Suspension. Should be back next week.


Resolving player issues. It was interesting to see Steve Clark taunting Kei Kamara yesterday in the second half (before he scored on him) then after the game watching Kei hugging Mo Saeid and chatting up a couple other Crew players. From the outside looking in? Things don't look fixed.

Signing players. Dilly Duka was an immediate necessity. It's difficult to find free agents laying around this time of year that can go right away. 

Things working against signing players. Crew are 19th on a 20 team table. Good players probably aren't knocking down the door to come. You'll have to find players without options and want playing time. You also have the very public dispute with Kei Kamara that pulled in dark clouds. Players see this stuff. 

Lack of reserve team. This is number one on the list, really. It's been on my list of issues since they dropped the reserve team a few years ago. Look at the players Gregg Berhalter is relying on right now. Ethan Finlay, Justin Meram, Tony Tchani and even Chad Barson. Old reserve stalwarts I would go watch back in 2012-13 that everyone made fun of took a team to the MLS Cup final. Right now, there is nothing. The affiliations have not worked out (likely been more of a burden). The well runneth dry now. It needs fixed. 

This whole post is the reason for a reserve team. Player issues and injuries happen to every team, it's how well prepared you are to deal with them that makes the difference.

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