Columbus Crew declines options on Wormgoor, Wright-Phillips, four others, Afful out of contract

Ahead of an important season, Columbus Crew had to make critical decisions about who would return and who would not be part of next year’s team.

On Wednesday, the crew announced that they rejected contract options for six players while exercising the options for nine players. There are also six players out of their contract, most of whom are negotiating with the crew in hopes of returning next season.

The six players whose contracts were rejected are defenders Vito, Ramgour, Saad Abdeslam and Willon Francis. forwards Bradley Wright-Phillips and Eric Hurtado; And goalkeeper Eric Dick.

Midfielder Liam Fraser has returned to Toronto FC after a season on loan with the crew.

The nine players whose contracts were selected are defenders Josh Williams, Stephen Moreira and Abubakar Keita. midfielders Luis Diaz, Derek Etienne Jr., Marlon Hairston and Isaiah Parenti; And attackers Miguel Perry and Gyasi Zardes.

The Crew already had nine players under contract for 2022. Those players are Jonathan Mensah, Lukas Zelaraian, Darlington Ngbe, Artur, Kevin Molyneux, Alex Matan, Perry Kitchen, Aidan Morris and Sebastian Berhalter.

Columbus defender Crewe Vito and Ramgur (5) against the Seattle Sounders during the first half of their MLS game at Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio on August 21, 2021.

The Crew said in a press release that they have extended their new contract offers to goalkeeper Eloy Room, starting with left back Milton Valenzuela and key winger Pedro Santos, and all of their current contracts are expiring.

The club’s press release stated that more updates on those offers will be provided in the coming days and weeks, but Santos said in end-of-season interviews that he has already re-signed for 2022. The crew has been working on an extension of Zelarajan’s contract, too, which is expected to be accomplished.

Right-back Harrison Avell, reserve goalkeeper Evan Bosch and right-back Grant Lillard have their contracts expired. However, Bosch is likely to return next season with a new deal.

The Crew appears interested in Afful as a potential reserve at right-back, but that depends on what other opportunities may be available for Afful and the club. It is very likely that he played his last game in the crew uniform after a total of 181 games in seven seasons.

Columbus Crewe defender Harrison Avul (25) goes for the ball during Saturday's Major League Soccer game against Team Montreal at Lower.com Stadium in Columbus, OH, on September 25, 2021.

Columbus Crewe defender Harrison Avul (25) goes for the ball during Saturday’s Major League Soccer game against Team Montreal at Lower.com Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, on September 25, 2021.

“We have a strong core of players we can build on around them, and we are excited to welcome them again next season,” Bezbachenko said in a statement. “The preparatory season is around the corner and work has already begun to prepare for better results in the 2022 season.”

Both Romm and Valenzuela have said they want to stay in Columbus, which was echoed by President and General Manager Tim Bezbachenko as well as coach Caleb Porter. Bezbatchenko did not mention Valenzuela’s injury history as a concern. However, by making an offer, the club indicated that it still appreciated Valenzuela’s ability as a left-back.

If it were Rom, Valenzuela and Santos, the crew would have 21 of the 30 places on the roster and would keep all the rookies from the past two seasons.

Last season, the crew relied on signing players within the league due to limited travel during the pandemic. Bezbatchenko said in his end-of-season media briefing that the crew will focus more on the international player market than they did last season.

With those decisions, Crew has immediate needs for depth in the center back and outer back. It was also surprising that the crew retained all five wings when they were in the market for at least one player of the primary caliber in this position this off-season.

Diaz’s option would likely have been rejected, but he is one of the fastest players in the league, and the team want to give the young winger – who turns 23 next week – more time to develop.

The Crew also cleared some salary cap space by turning down options in Wormgoor and Wright-Phillips. Among the players whose contracts have been rejected, Francis and Hurtado could be re-signed as additional depth for a lower budget fee on the salary cap.

I refused the options

phyto and rumgor: The Crew’s third choice in central defense behind rookies Mensah and Williams. He practically missed the entire 2020 season after sustaining a severe ankle injury that required surgery. By the start of the 2021 season, he had not fully recovered and was unable to provide stability to the situation when either Mensah or Williams missed. The 33-year-old defender played 1,293 minutes in 17 games and had a base salary of $415,000 according to the Players Association’s salary database.

Bradley Wright PhillipsA Major League Soccer legend who became the club’s third choice as a striker with the advent of Perry. Signed to be Zardes’ backup, Wright-Phillips didn’t find the same level of production he had the previous year with LAFC. In 2021, he played 650 minutes in 21 games and wasted time due to injuries. His base salary was $410,000.

Columbus Crewe forward Bradley Wright-Phillips (99) dribbles the ball off Chicago Fire defender Federico Navarro (31) during the second half of an MLS game at Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio on Nov. 7.

Columbus Crewe forward Bradley Wright-Phillips (99) dribbles the ball off Chicago Fire defender Federico Navarro (31) during the second half of an MLS game at Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio on Nov. 7.

Saad Abdul SalamEarly in the season he got deep into the right-back position, and Abdeslam rarely played in the second half of the season. The Jahana native made 18 matches and started in seven. His base salary was $125,000.

Waylon Francis: A deep cut at left-back, Francis’ 23 appearance was his most since 2015 when he was selected to the MLS Best XI with the crew. At 1,345 minutes, Francis was limited in what he could offer in attack at the left noon point, critical to the crew’s attack. His base salary was $220,000.

Eric Hurtado: Mid-season gaining depth in the striker when the crew needed him most, Hurtado played 290 minutes in nine games and didn’t score or score a assist. He earned a base salary of $218,182.

Eric Dick: A goalkeeper in depth who did not play in a crew game in 2021 after being acquired through a re-entry draft in his last off-season. His base salary was $85,444.

out of service

Harrison Avul: The 35-year-old Ghanaian has lost a move this season and hasn’t been able to join the attack like he’s been able to since he joined the crew in 2015. The crew will likely re-sign him on a lower deal, but it’s not a given. Although Afol has played 26 games and participated in 21 games this season, French right-back Stephen Moreira won the primary task once he joined the club in the middle of the season.

Evan Bush: The reserve goalkeeper who performed well when starting in the room. Although his contract has expired, it seems likely that the crew will re-sign him for next season. The 35-year-old has conceded six goals in four matches with one clean sheet.

Grant LillardA deep piece in the heart of the defense who hasn’t played in a game for two seasons. The Crew will not re-sign Lillard.

jmyers@dispatch.com

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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Which Columbus Crew players will return for the 2022 MLS season?

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