Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Updated Columbus Crew Lineup




NameAgeRatingContractValueAttackingSkillMentalityDefending
D. Nagbe CM CDM2875~ 20216.5321371309187
Pedro Santos CAM RM LM3175~ 20196.0344369332188
E. Room GK3075~ 20214.5879914547
L. Zelarayán CAM CM2774~ 20246.0327373308128
V. Wormgoor CB3073?3.2262302305213
W. Trapp CDM2672~ 20203.5283353306199
Y. Mokhtar LM RM2772~ 20203.3321369280108
M. Valenzuela LB2071~ 20213.5256291321214
Artur CDM CM2371~ 20202.9275319324202
G. Zardes ST2771~ 20212.5303264301129
J. Mensah CB2871~ 20202.1263241255206
H. Afful RB RWB3371~ 20221.1296328329202
L. Díaz RM LM2068~ 20211.429932126390
C. Cadden RM RB CM2268?1.3300305289164
A. Sjöberg CB2867~ 20200.8212204229186
W. Francis LB2867?0.7269307304198
H. Jimenez LB RB RM3067~ 20200.6298316324193
J. Williams CB3167~ 20200.6273277271190
J. Hamilton ST2365~ 20200.827721626757
J. Kempin GK2665~ 20200.5919410635


Crew Addition: Lucas Zelarayan

Lucas Zelarayán, a CM from Argentina, has been a winner with Liga MX side Tigres for a number of years now. At 27, he is one of the more decorated players I've seen come to Columbus (in or out of MLS). Look at this:

CLUB WINNER
3x Liga MX Winner
2018/2019 Clausura, 2017/2018 Apertura, 2016/2017 Apertura
Runner-up
2016/2017 Clausura

3x Campeón de Campeones, Winner
2017/2018, 2016/2017, 2015/2016
Runner-up
2018/2019

CLUB INTERNATIONAL
3x Concacaf Champions League Runner-up 2019, 2016/2017, 2015/2016
Campeones Cup Winner 2018

Zelarayán appears to be Federico Higuain's replacement and will easily be the best player on the team. He also provides some continuity in regards to Argentines playing the CAM in Columbus that goes back about 13 years now (2007-2010 Guillermo Barros Schelotto, 2012-2019 Higuain).

Looking over his recent playing record at SofaScore, TransferMarket, FIFA 20, and FM20 the picture I am getting is a player similar to what Crew fans are used to in Higuain. He might be a bit more aggressive, but a lot of that depends on how Caleb Porter decides to deploy him.

His arrival means that Columbus will likely line back up in a 4231 formation.

Columbus has been busy this week! Zelarayan and Wormgoor additions keep the Crew in the MLS playoff picture and a bit better than what we saw last year. About the same if Valenzuela and Higuain had been healthy all season.

I'll have a post with the latest lineup projection in a few minutes, but one last thing here is that I don't think Columbus had to let Higuain go unless he is going to retire off the injury. He was only at $1m last season. Columbus needs another playmaker that is able to come on late or allow for greater lineup, tactical options.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Crew Addition: Vito Wormgoor

It's looking likely that Vito Wormgoor, 31-year-old old Dutch player, will be picked up by the Columbus Crew from SK Brann in Norway.

Up until 2017, Wormgoor had spent his entire career in the Netherlands. Notably, spending some time with Ajax U19 and U21 before going to FC Utrecht in the Eredivisie. Recent years have seen him drop down to Aalesund and now Brann in Norway's Eliteserien.

According to available game data, he is somewhere between Jonathan Mensah, Axel Sjöberg, and Josh Williams in regards to quality. He is a big, physical defender at 6'2" 180+ and appears to use that advantage on set pieces (defending and goal scoring).

Here's a recent hype video on him. He'd be a good signing. I'm a fan of experienced CBs in MLS. However, sometimes they can really misfire due to the herky-jerky nature of MLS compared to European leagues.


Saturday, December 14, 2019

Crew Roster Dec. Snapshot

According to the lastest info I have, Columbus have 22 players on the roster. Three total "DP's" (one "young DP") and four official international players.

As far as the team budget goes? I'm not going to take time digging into it right now with the next CBA agreement coming soon. I will say that the core part of the team is basically in place. I'd expect one more notable signing before the season starts, but that's about it.

It looks like, to me at least, that Caleb Porter will let Nagbe do the heavy lifting this year in the middle and run with a 433 type look that looks more like a 4141 in possession.

Diaz is a valuable piece for this team, but I think inconsistency will keep him on the bench for long spells.

MLS teams carry between 26-32 players at any given time. I think Columbus will keep a short roster around 26-28 this year to save money leading up the opening of the stadium next year. I'll note that there are a lot of contracts ending this year. The team will likely look completely different before long, so we are looking at a lumpy season ahead.

All I got for now.

Dispatch on Stadium: "You paid for it"

Austin and Columbus will always be tied together for as long as MLS exists. It's been a few days since this piece published in the Columbus Dispatch went live. It hit a nerve with some support as well as a few city planners. It's behind a paywall, so I figured I re-post it here for all to read.

I don't do this for money (this site is, has been, and always will be, ad-free and completely independent). This is for information purposes only.

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COLUMBUS WANTED SOCCER MORE THAN AUSTIN DID - AND YOU PAID FOR IT
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By Bill Bush
The Columbus Dispatch
Posted Dec 10, 2019 at 6:01 AM
Updated Dec 10, 2019 at 11:38 AM
 
Both Columbus and Austin are currently building new professional soccer stadiums, but taxpayers in Columbus ended up paying way more for theirs.

Columbus and Austin are both fast-growing cities that currently are constructing new professional soccer stadiums, with each project involving land donated by the public.

But when it comes to what the two projects will cost taxpayers, the similarities end.

In Columbus, the city, county and state agreed to make direct cash contributions toward the Crew’s new stadium and surrounding neighborhood totaling more than $200 million.

In Austin, taxpayers kicked in zero cash, according to a city official and documents

“We are not contributing a single dime of money to this,” said David Green, spokesman for Austin’s city manager.

Austin’s total public contribution is essentially to allow Precourt Sports Ventures, the former owner of Crew SC, to build a privately funded stadium on city land, and then accept the new facility as a gift to the public.

Despite that, the arrangement has been controversial in Austin for effectively allowing Precourt to avoid paying future property taxes on the $190 million-plus stadium, Green said.

If the team had kept title to the stadium, it would have qualified only for a 10-year tax abatement under Texas law, he said.

“The end result is that we handed them a piece of property and they’re going to develop it,” Green said. Aside from that, “the city didn’t spend any money, and we haven’t waived any fees.”

In Columbus, the stadium’s construction is being funded through a public-private partnership, which also will result in no future property taxes paid on the stadium itself, as it will be owned by a new public entity, the Confluence Community Authority.

The most-recent funding plan shows the city contributing $50 million; the county, $45 million or more, depending on bonds to be priced this week; the state, $20 million; and the new authority $25 million. That’s a total of $140 million or more.

That number doesn’t include at least $64 million in other improvements around the Arena District site being paid for by the city, including relocating utilities and building a parking garage that internal city documents estimate will cost $25 million. City officials have said those upgrades would have been done for any new development.

The team will contribute $233 million toward the project, including transforming the current Mapfre Stadium near the Ohio Expo Center into a new practice facility. The total project cost for the stadium, community sports park and practice facility is $373 million, not including the city’s additional $64 million in Arena District costs.

The new Crew stadium itself is now budgeted to cost $300 million — up to 37% more than the Austin facility.

The city of Columbus has said that none of its direct cash contribution will go toward actual construction of the stadium but may be used by the team to buy the land from Nationwide Realty Investors. The city also is paying for site and utility work, including street and intersection improvements.

In Austin, Precourt is paying for all site preparation, remediation, utilities, roads, sidewalks, parking ramps, street lamps, trees and bushes, Green said. Precourt has agreed to contribute almost $3.7 million to assist Austin’s transit authority, Capital Metro, to build transit improvements, including a new train station serving the stadium, according to the Austin development contract.

Green said Austin is under no contractual obligation to improve roads in, out and around the new stadium. It hasn’t even conducted a traffic study.

After giving the stadium to Austin, Precourt will lease it back rent-free for the first five years before being required to pay $550,000 annually in rent beginning in year six, for a total of $13.75 million over 30 years.

The Crew will pay annual stadium rent of $10, for a total of $300 over the 30-year lease.

“Yikes,” Nathan Jensen, a professor in the Department of Government at the University of Texas in Austin, said when learning of the Crew’s low annual stadium rent amount.

Jensen, who has studied the Austin deal, said Austin City Council negotiated its rent amount up from a proposed $1 a year to the final $550,000.

Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther would not agree to be interviewed about the disparities in the two agreements.

Austin’s deal also includes a requirement “to cause at least 130 affordable housing units to be developed on up to one acre on the southeast portion of the land or other mutually agreed location,” according to the development contract between Austin and Precourt.

Columbus attempted to get such a requirement for affordable units but settled for language allowing a “good-faith effort” on the part of the team to facilitate the housing units.

Ginther spokeswoman Robin Davis said affordable housing wasn’t negotiated out of the Crew stadium contract because “the city fully expects developers to maintain the affordable housing limits.”

Austin also negotiated five “landlord days,” when the city can use the stadium free of charge for charitable or educational purposes, civic ceremonies or other such events not designed to compete with team events.

“We’re not tracking what’s happening in Austin,” Davis said. “We are committed to our investments in keeping the Crew in Columbus and the benefits that will bring the residents: a downtown soccer stadium, the redevelopment of Mapfre Stadium into a new training facility, a new community sports park and $1.04 billion in private development in the Arena District, expected to create a total of 3,200 jobs and add $6.5 million annually to city tax revenue.”

“There’s no doubt that Austin got a better deal than Columbus did out of this,” said Victor Matheson, an economics professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, who is an expert in stadium financing.

But why?

Matheson attributed the disparity to a variety of reasons. Austin is a very attractive, fast-growing market that currently has no professional sports franchises. It also has a large and growing Hispanic population, a demographic highly interested in soccer.

But, mostly, Matheson attributed Austin’s lack of public investment in the project to the fact that, unlike Columbus, it didn’t have anything to lose. A new team wanted to come there, rather than a longstanding team trying to leave.

Just like buying a car, whichever side appears more desperate to close the deal typically ends up losing money, he said.

“Absolutely,” Matheson said. “The places who say, ‘Hey, you need us more than we need you’ are the places that tend to do well for the taxpayers.”

bbush@dispatch.com

@ReporterBush

Monday, December 2, 2019

Browns Dysfunction a Warning to Crew Fans

The Cleveland Browns have an organizational problem and that organization now runs the Columbus Crew.

In the last few seasons under Haslam's control of the team, fans have seen a noticeable drop in already poor results since the team came back in 1999. Five of Haslam's seven seasons owning the team have produced 5 or fewer wins with 0-16 and 1-15 tank seasons among them.

In the 21 seasons since the Browns re-formed they have only had a winning record twice (2002, 2010). You'll find the Browns, more often than not, winning somewhere between 4-6 games a year (11 times since '99), but there is something deeper wrong with Cleveland since Jimmy Haslam took over the team in 2012.

A clear outward sign of disfunction within team offices is that NFL Corporate is watching from their offices in New York. A few weeks ago a couple star players were wearing un-approved cleats that prompted the league offices to call the team and force them to remove the gear at half-time (they did). Now, uniform infractions happen in every game, but it usually handled afterward and results in a fine.

Anyone who has ever been in charge of a group knows it sucks when one of the higher-ups start watching your team instead of you. It means they have lost complete faith in you as a leader and cannot count on you to fix the issues. I've been on both sides of this.

The fact that the league was monitoring Cleveland tells me that they were/are being babysat. What that says is that there is much more going on that prompted the supervision that we do not know.

Turns out the league was correct in thinking something was seriously wrong in Cleveland.

Not long after the seemingly bland uniform incident, you had a Cleveland player threaten to kill a reporter and a fan on social media after a loss. The team eventually dropped him.

Fast forward a bit again and we see the frightening use of a helmet as a weapon on an opposing player. It ended up bonking him on the head and not doing any real damage (outside of probably bringing on dementia a year earlier?) - but had it hit another way, the player would have been on the ground with a bloody head that the NFL would see pictures of for the rest of eternity.

Seriously, imagine that image. It's possible it would have irreparably done damage to the NFL. A player on the ground, unconscious and bleeding from the head is the league's worst nightmare (or worse, an on-field fatality from the hit).

This past weekend, the Browns lined up against the same team in the Steelers. During the week lead-up to the game, Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens wore a shirt that said: "Pittsburgh started it," while Haslam's wife Dee, who runs the Crew, wore a skull cap with the number (95) of the player that was suspended for using the helmet as a weapon.

To add another head-scratching event, the team mysteriously left one of there pro-bowl players at home. No explanation was given. However, it is notable that he left a Pittsburgh player bleeding from his ear after an illegal hit shortly before the helmet swing.

If all of this is bewildering and difficult to understand, well, welcome to the club. From Johnny Football to hiring (and firing) a baseball guru to try and turn things around... Cleveland is a joke of an organization under the Haslams. It burns me up because my wife and her family are life-long fans of the team. Her dad is from Cleveland! It hurts my heart to see her Sundays week after week the last several years.

DEE CREW

Dee Haslam appears to be the one in the room for Columbus Crew decisions.

Friday, November 29, 2019

MLS Re-Entry Options, 2019


Every year I take a good look at MLS players cast aside by their respective teams to try and find a hidden gem among over-priced diamonds. There are some years where there is a player or two out there that fits a team need - but usually, it's just a long list of players who have a dangling contract that MLS wants to be put to good use. Last week the four players were taken in the "stage one." None of note.

This year I've only got one player that might be a solid sign in Víctor Rodríguez (Seattle). He put in a bunch of minutes and I've had him ranked 10th best Left Midfielder in MLS in the summer. The drawback? He's over 30 and his existing contract is over a million.

Teams can re-negotiate contracts at this point in the draft process, but that starting figure is high for most teams looking to fill a role. That said. If he's healthy, he's worth the spend.

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Here are the five other players to pull the trigger on:

Juan Agudelo, Forward, 600k, 27
His level is known in MLS at this point, but he deserves a chance away from New England. Put him on a natural surface in a competitive environment. He'll be well worth it.

Dillion Powers, Midfielder, $200k, 29
Solid player that, like Agudelo, has played for crummy organizations. I'd pick him up for the energy and durability.

Shane O'Neill, Defender, $140k, 26
Like Powers and Agudelo, he's been with horrible orgs. Only difference is he tried to get out of MLS before ultimately coming back to the dumpster fire that is Orlando. He's cheap. In his prime. Loads of experience. Pick him up.

Derrick Etienne, Forward, $82k, 23
AGAIN; his has been hobbled by joining a bad org in Cincy. NY loaned him there and it was a horrific season for that team. He's practically a must pick at less than $100k.

Connor Maloney, Defender, $70k, 25
Columbus shouldn't have dropped him. He came in late in the season. Proved he can play in MLS, was beloved by teammates, and is under $100k. I'm still mad Columbus put him on the market.

SPECIAL HELLTOWN PLAYER

Luke Mulholland

I was writing about Luke back in 2012, when he was in the USL. I tagged him as a player MLS teams should pick up. Well, it happened. Real Salt Lake picked him up in 2014 and he went on to play an important role with the team for five years.

Salt Lake dropped him down to their "two" USL team last year. But he's English. He'll play till he drops and give you everything he has.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Crew Already (making moves), Higuain Out

The MLS Cup playoffs might have just started but team president Tim Bezbatchenko is getting a head start on the offseason by announcing several roster moves. All totaled, we know that six players will no be back next year, but only one of them really matters.

Federico Higuain.

CREW PLAYERS OUT
GK: Ben Lundgaard
CB: Alex Crognale
DM: David Guzman
RM: Eddie Opoku
CM: Eduardo Sosa
CM: Federico Higuain

OPTIONS PICKED UP
MID: Luis Argudo
LB: Waylon Francis
Utility: Hector Jimenez
CD: Jonathan Mensah
MID: Pedro Santos
DM: Wil Trapp


HERE'S THE TEAM RIGHT NOW
Marked in Pink are key players as of right now. Meaning: They have the ability to set the team apart from other MLS teams.

FORWARDS:
Williams, JJ
Zardes, Gyasi

MIDFIELDERS:
Argudo, Luis
Artur
Diaz, Luis
Mokhtar, Youness
Santos, Pedro
Trapp, Wil

DEFENDERS:
Abubakar, Lalas
Cadden, Chris
Francis, Waylon
Jimenez, Hector
Keita, Aboubacar
Mensah, Jonathan
Valenzuela, Milton
Williams, Josh

GOALKEEPERS:
Kempin, Jon
Room, Eloy

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

USMNT Lost to Canada, Too Much MLS

The US Men's National Team lost to Canada for the first time since 1985, 2-0 up at BMO Field in Toronto. The US had a total of 17 matches unbeaten, which I have listed below (because no one seems to).

02 Apr 1985 - Canada v USA - L - 2-0 International Friendly
04 Apr 1985 - USA v Canada - D - 1-1 International Friendly
05 Feb 1986 - USA v Canada - D - 0-0 Miami Cup
16 Mar 1991 - USA v Canada - W - 2-0 North American Championship
03 Sep 1992 - Canada v USA - W - 0-2 International Friendly
09 Oct 1992 - USA v Canada - D - 0-0 International Friendly
03 Mar 1993 - USA v Canada - D - 2-2 International Friendly
16 Mar 1997 - USA v Canada - W - 3-0 FIFA World Cup
09 Nov 1997 - Canada v USA - W - 0-3 FIFA World Cup
30 Jan 2002 - USA v Canada - W - 0-0 CONCACAF Gold Cup
18 Jan 2003 - USA v Canada - W - 4-0 International Friendly
09 Jul 2005 - USA v Canada - W - 2-0 CONCACAF Gold Cup
22 Jan 2006 - USA v Canada - D - 0-0 International Friendly
21 Jun 2007 - USA v Canada - W - 2-1 CONCACAF Gold Cup
07 Jun 2011 - USA v Canada - W - 2-0 CONCACAF Gold Cup
03 Jun 2012 - Canada v USA - D - 0-0 International Friendly
29 Jan 2013 - USA v Canada - D - 0-0 International Friendly
05 Feb 2016 - USA v Canada - W - 1-0 International Friendly
15 Oct 2019 - Canada v USA - L - 2-0 CONCACAF Nations League

There a couple of things that jump out at you when combing over the results.

1. Yesterday was only the 5th time that the US has played in Canada since 1985 (5/17=29% of the time). The previous 17 matches between the two nations saw the match played 9 times out of 17 (53% of the time). The difference is more or less do to MLS and building interest. There was a run of six straight in the US between 2001 and 2011, a decade where the US racked up wins.

2. The USA doesn't play Canada for World Cup Qualifying. For a weak region like CONCACAF, it seems a bit strange. All-time, Canada has an advantage over the US in WC Qualifiers. The US has 13 played,  4 wins, 3 draws, 6 losses against those guys up north, but the last time the two played to qualify was 1997. Again, weird, but likely due to MLS.

MLS MINUTES LAST NIGHT

Over the last few years, MLS has been bringing in the best players from all over CONCACAF. Canada has always been here, however. Even going back to the old NASL days.

So what did the game look like last night? Lots of MLS experienced players.

What I've done is simply look up how many minutes each player that was in the 18 has this year. I quartered MLS players to quickly simplify things as most leagues across the world are only 25% of the way through the season.

The point of this exercise was to quickly get to the heart of things. Was this an MLS v. MLS duel?


















Yes! It was an MLS duel. Something that sticks out first to me, when looking at the data this way, is the sheer number of leagues Canadian players play in. A total of 11, while we only see players from 5 different leagues for the USMNT. Maybe it shouldn't be all that surprising.

Also sticking out is how much MLS is on the bench for Gregg Berhalter's US team. It sort of speaks to the simplicity of scouting, but also to the preference based on marketing the league to non-MLS fans.

SOLUTIONS TO CATCHING... CANADA

US Players; England & Germany only
For me, this flyover look at where the two national team selections are playing tells an important story.

You need players fighting and scraping in uncomfortable situations. Simply put, it creates a better player. MLS has quality, but it is firmly 2nd tier, possibly 3rd. Your best players cannot be playing in a low impact, comfortable situation and expect to compete with players humping it every day in Belgium, Scotland, Chile, Norway, Mexico. It's great that the US is calling up players in England and Germany, but these are culturally similar countries that the pay to play youth model often treats like a teen going to college. Bundesliga being that rich kid prestigious university up north. England, a solid State school.

Canada is calling up its best players, regardless of league. The US team is calling marketable MLS players and sprinkling in a handful of others. Does that make sense? In order for the US to get back to being best in class in CONCACAF, they need to undo the MLS shackles.

Take a look at a "what if" situation. What if Gregg Berhalter only called in players in Germany and England - what would that look like? It looks like they would stomp the mix-matched MLS heavy team Berhalter is trying to put together.

Wood - Sargent - Shelton
Pulisic - McKennie - Gooch
Robinson - Brooks - Miazga - Yedlin
Steffen

The problem emerging is that the USMNT has gone from calling in plucky over-performing MLS guys to practically mandating it after the hire of Gregg Berhalter. The players being selected simply do not have what it takes. A random selection of the 250+ guys playing outside MLS would yield better results.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Helltown Beer MLS Player of the Year

This marks the 8th MLS Player of the Year Award for Helltown. It's the same rating system I've been using since 2011. It's a simple system that looks at basic "box score" statistics and then weighs how well the team did during the regular season. It's not meant to split hairs, it's purpose since day one has been to give me a general idea of who is playing well.

LAFC took over my rating system this year. Six of my top 10 players are on that team. Similar to WhoScored's team of the year (where there are four on the starting 11). MLS's age of "super-teams," comparatively speaking, is here.

You can see the complete FINAL list HERE.

2019 WINNER: CARLOS VELA

Past Winners:
2018: Josef Martinez
2017: Nemanja Nikolić
2016: Bradley Wright-Phillips
2015: Bradley Wright-Phillips
2014: Robbie Keane
2013: Darlington Nagbe
2012: Chris Wondolowski
2011: Todd Dunivant

Goal scoring players have dominated my winner's list SIX years straight, which lines up with MLS's focus on increasing goals.

Since 2011 I've had 7 forwards, a midfielder and a defender win Player of the Year. I have not changed my methodology since 2011.

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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Crew Player Values, 2020 Lineup


Today I'm going to take a quick look at what 2019 Crew players are world strictly based on WhoScored performances. How I did it is was take the median salary of the four players above and below them in rating by position played (MLS is all about leveling by position, sorry defenders).

Please keep in mind this is a loose valuation for a couple reasons. 1st: It's only looking at one rating, it's a good one, but merely just one. The other is that this doesn't take into account age, development, potential, soft skill, etc. It's just performance this year. Lastly, I didn't rate Room (gk), he's fine.


OUT PERFORMING 2019 SALARY
PlayerWageValueDiff% off
Connor Malo$70,250$250,000$179,750256%
Luis Argudo$57,225$175,000$117,775206%
Aboubacar K$110,000$275,000$165,000150%
Josh Willia$215,000$475,000$260,000121%


UNDERPAID
Pedro Santos$864,560$1,300,000$435,44050%
Luis Díaz$250,000$350,000$100,00040%
Héctor Jimé$200,000$250,000$50,00025%


PAID ABOUT RIGHT
Waylon Fran$199,167$230,000$30,83315%
Ricardo Cla$160,000$175,000$15,0009%
Harrison Af$363,800$350,000-$13,800-4%
Eduardo Sos$120,200$100,000-$20,200-17%


OVERPAID
Alex Crogna$104,504$75,000-$29,504-28%
Wil Trapp$593,746$400,000-$193,746-33%
David Guzmá$320,000$175,000-$145,000-45%
Youness Mok$533,845$250,000-$283,845-53%
Jonathan Me$894,000$400,000-$494,000-55%
Federico Hi$1,100,000$450,000-$650,000-59%


WAY OVERPAID
Gyasi Zarde$1,471,667$550,000-$921,667-63%
Artur$411,633$150,000-$261,633-64%


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THOUGHTS ON THE OVERPAID
-------------------

 I think Columbus should take a close look at the guys overpaid. The situation clearly takes a front seat to this, but here's how I see it.
- Trapp: Has a great deal of MLS value, but not much longer. Time to move him may be now (or never). 
- Guzman: Really slow start, but grew a little bit into his role. Players can be found for a lot less and a lot younger that provide the same quality. I get that he's a Porter guy, but you don't need that stuff in year two. 
- Mokhtar: Came on strong late in the year. I think he'll easily make up his value. 
- Mensah: MLS doesn't pay defenders. Might be worth it to keep him, but that wage is huge. 
- Higuain: Best to probably treat him like Sauro. Drop him back (if possible), see if that knee is okay. 
- Zardes: Not worth that wage. Makes it up if he stays on the USMNT, but I don't see that happening. 
- Artur: He is a serviceable player, but you can find just as good for half the price.

Going into this offseason I think Columbus has to offload a couple of these guys. All of them are good players, but they are just being paid more than similar in the MLS market (bubble). You always want players to be outperforming their contracts. That's healthy.

Based on this, here's how I structure the lineup:
Leaving it open like this makes it more exciting. I think the roster is due a major refresh.

Open Spots: Forward x2, 2 starting CM's and a sub, and another backup CB unless Abubakar returns from Colorado. I think Valenzuela should start on the bench after a knee injury (backup at LB or RB). With his skill set, I'd even consider him for a CM role.

Maybe keep Zardes? I wouldn't because he doesn't offer anything outside of goals. $1.4 million is right on the edge for goal scorer that doesn't offer any support play. Like Trapp, he is at peak MLS value right now. Find a player that is a better value.

The 2020 lineup here is solid and financially stable, i.e. players outperforming their contracts. What this sets up is lineup consistency for a couple years to come.