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Cunningham is eager to re-up in Columbus
by Ridge Mahoney, January 25th, 2011 10:57PM

TAGS:  columbus crew, mls


[MLS] Jeff Cunningham's flirtation with European soccer has ended. The second-leading scorer (132 goals) in league history showed up unexpectedly at the Crew’s training facility Tuesday, and he talked contract for a few minutes with technical director Brian Bliss.

The 34-year-old forward played for FC Dallas last season and as a free agent player he entered the Re-Entry Draft, during which Columbus claimed his rights.

After rejecting the Crew’s original offer, Cunningham traveled to Europe to follow up contacts with Randers FC in Denmark and IK Start in Norway, but neither team offered him a contract. Before his departure, agent Jan Schiefloe said Cunningham’s preference was to stay in MLS and that now seems to be his best option.

“He didn’t seem to think we’re not getting it done or he didn’t like the deal,” Bliss said to “I’m guessing what was offered to him 12 days ago is the same deal.”

Reports have pegged the Crew’s offer at approximately $150,000, about two-thirds of what he earned ($220,000 base salary) last year for FCD.

Columbus leaves Saturday for a three-week camp in Arizona.

“I’m optimistic something will get done before we leave for Phoenix based on, a) Jeff showing up here unannounced, and b) the conversation we had for five minutes,” said Bliss.

Cunningham, a native of Jamaica who played college soccer at South Florida, started his MLS career with Columbus in 1998 and scored 62 goals before leaving
in 2004. In the past six seasons he’s won the Golden Boot as top scorer twice while playing for Colorado, Real Salt Lake, Toronto FC and FC Dallas.

He led MLS Cup runner-up last year with 11 goals; both of the Crew’s top two goalscorers, Guillermo Barros Schelotto (nine) and Steven Lenhart (six), have
moved on.

He needs one more goal to tie all-time leader Jaime Moreno, who is also out of contract. “I hope they see that I took the initiative to come to Columbus,”
Cunningham said.

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