Saturday, November 26, 2016

Crew Moves, Leadership Vacuum

The offseason still has a couple months to go before rosters for the 2017 season take shape and Berhalter is showing a great deal of action after a historically bad year - but, despite impressive contract dealings so far, he has cleared the deck of leadership and there is no clear option to fill it back up.

As soon as the 2016 season was over, Anthony Precourt and Gregg Berhalter went about working, on what seemed to be, the normal set of bullet-pointed communication with fans. Some of it was franchise related; "New stadium!?" (which keeps the fans occupied) and some of it was competitive in nature; "We're going to use the extra time effectively" (which keeps fans AND your boss pacified after a horrific season).

For what it's worth, Gregg Berhalter is making good on the additional playoff-less time afforded to them this year by looking for players overseas the week after the season ended, getting in front of the camera as much as possible and tidying up existing player contracts.

The contracts part of his post-terrible season itinerary has been swift and direct. This is likely due to the winter long issue they had with Kei Kamara last year, but it's likely also because it falls into Berhalter's pencil pushing wheelhouse.

The efficiency in which he has handled this offseason so far is better than any offseason in the last six years (since I've been paying close attention) which suggests that an administrative ("Sporting Director") role might be the best fit for him.

All totaled, so far, Crew SC have picked up eight player options. On top of that, the team have another 12 players currently contracted to play with the team in 2017. That's a roster size of 20 already ready to go and it's November 26th. Clear objectives. Impressive execution.


Major changes to the roster have already taken place. Michael Parkhurst and Steve Clark are the two most impactful guys not returning. In fact, if you were to (bare with me) view Crew SC as a solar system, Parkhurst and Clark would be the Sun at the center. They were Gregg Berhalter's brain, voice and temperament on the pitch.

Making this all work for the two of them was their long career experience. It commanded respect from the other players on the team. It's here that the most risk is being taken by Berhalter. He's created a vacuum in the most critical area of team-building.

It's difficult to point to another two players on the team that can fill that void. Is it 2016 vice-captain Wil Trapp? He's likely the odds on favorite, but I don't see him having much command of a room that includes Federico Higuain, Gaston Sauro and Harrison Afful. Is it possible it will be one of them?

There is no easy way to write this other than to say - 2016 blew up in Berhalter's face in this critical area early on and he never recovered. A team leader might not matter to some coaches in MLS. Outsized, brash and loud personalities like Peter Vermes or Pablo Mastroeni could probably change up their gameday captains each week and it wouldn't matter. But, for Berhalter, it's important. His style is different.


It was mildly surprising that Federico Higuain's option was picked up, all things considered. He certainly doesn't hurt the team, but there is concern about how much he can still contribute. Both the team and player likely know this. With that said, I estimate that Higuain's budget number next year will get walked back to something resembling 2014.

Player20102011201220132014201520162017Grand Total
Federico Higuain$604,000$744,000$1,175,000$1,175,000$881,250$4,579,250
Gaston Sauro$599,513$601,313$620,060$1,820,885
Ola Kamara$457,500$471,740$929,240
Harrison Afful$150,000$291,667$300,760$742,427
Tony Tchani$194,000$209,000$155,000$175,000$195,000$283,333$292,520$1,503,853
Wil Trapp$127,000$152,000$164,500$178,250$268,500$890,250
Ethan Finlay$59,000$62,300$65,848$142,500$250,000$257,500$837,148
Nicolai Naess$207,504$249,600$457,104
Waylon Francis$153,875$170,167$200,000$231,750$755,792
Justin Meram$66,375$70,575$80,695$91,827$175,000$185,000$222,000$891,472
Mohammed Saeid$110,000$120,000$144,000$374,000
Hector Jimenez$75,000$90,000$105,000$108,150$378,150
Zack Steffen$100,008$103,000$203,008
Ben Swanson$80,417$90,417$93,730$264,563
Cristian Martinez$67,008$80,400$147,408
Dilly Duka$62,508$75,600$138,108
Adam Jahn$67,500$74,800$142,300
Brad Stuver$48,500$60,000$63,000$64,890$236,390
Marshall Hollingsworth$51,500$62,400$113,900
Rodrigo Saravia$62,500$53,560$116,060


What this does (possibly) for the team is make room for all the other players (and their projected increases) without breaking the bank. In fact, I have the same players more or less making the same amount as a group because of it (in bright green).

Again, just estimates based off general observations on how the league handles things.

Barring any surprises and as it has been for the past few years (even under the Hunts), Columbus has about a million or so dollars to work with going into the transfer / draft season. It's a nice amount to play with and plenty enough to strengthen the team.

Lots of road to go, but Crew SC is off to a good start.

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