[MLS TRANSACTIONS: Columbus Crew] In the wake of missing the playoffs for the first time since Robert Warzychareplaced Sigi Schmid after the Crew's 2008 championship season, Columbus has set out its roster plans for 2013.
The contract options of seven players, including goalkeeper Will Hesmer and midfielder Tony Tchani, were not picked up, and the rights to 10 others were retained. The moves give the Crew a squad of 17 heading into the winter.
Those declined, in addition to Hesmer and Tchani, were defenders Rich Balchan, Julius James and Sebastian Miranda; midfielder Chris Birchall, and forward Tommy Heinemann.
A record of 15-12-7 (52 points) left the Crew sixth in the Eastern Conference and out of the playoffs. Despite the midseason additions of Newcomer of the Year Federico Higuain and Costa Rican forward Jairo Arrieta, the Crew couldn't maintain its run of four straight playoff appearances. After winning the 2008 title, it reached the postseason the next three years but stumbled at the first hurdle each time.
Defenders Danny O’Rourke and Carlos Mendes, as well as forward Emilio Renteria are out of contract. They are expected to receive offers prior to the Nov. 30 deadline.
“Offseason roster decisions are never easy, and this year is no different,” said Crew technical director Brian Bliss in a press release announcing the moves. “While we’ve declined options on a number of players, we will continue conversations with some of those individuals to potentially return to the club. Further roster announcements will be made in the weeks ahead, and we’re excited to build upon the successful core we developed throughout 2012.”
Hesmer, a veteran of six seasons in Columbus, helped the Crew win two Supporters’ Shields, an Eastern Conference Championship and the 2008 MLS Cup. He holds team records in games played and started (130), wins (59), shots faced (623), saves (412) and shutouts (41). He didn't play a league match in 2012 after undergoing hip surgery in April, and Gruenebaum took over the starting job.
Birchall, Hesmer, James and Tchani are eligible for the MLS Re-Entry Draft, which begins Dec. 7.