COLUMBUS, Ohio – Looking at three key areas of the 2010 roster, Columbus Crew management came to the conclusion that keeping star forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto and three other veterans older than 30 was not in the best interest of the club.
“There’s risk in the moves we’re making now,” Crew president and general manager Mark McCullers said. “There’s certainly a risk in not making these moves.”
McCullers, technical director Brian Bliss and head coach Robert Warzycha sat down with MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday afternoon at Crew Stadium to discuss the situation.
The trio agreed that releasing the players was because of financial considerations, the team’s on-field strategy for next season and, in the case of Schelotto, numbers that showed the team was productive without him in the lineup.
“Timing is everything, but based on our evaluation of our season, now is the right time and opportunity to transition this team,” McCullers said.
The Crew will not renew the options for Schelotto, the 2008 league and playoff MVP; captain and right back Frankie Hejduk; left back Gino Padula, a mainstay on the MLS Cup champions two years ago; and Duncan Oughton, the longest-tenured player (since 2001).
McCullers does not foresee any of the players re-signing with the Crew, even at a reduced price. If the players are not taken in the expansion draft by the Vancouver Whitecaps or Portland Timbers, they can go into a re-entry draft at their option-year price.
Schelotto indicated Tuesday he would go into the draft.
“I want to play one more season," he said. "I wish it would be in Columbus but I don’t think so now."
If a player is not chosen in the re-entry draft, he can be re-signed by the league at a likely lower salary and be eligible for another draft.
“I honestly don’t see any scenario that’s going to emerge that is going to change the situation and circumstances,” McCullers said. “That was part of the process. We sat down and explained the salary cap and the situation going forward that we wanted to address with them. We talked about potential scenarios and alternatives and what those might look like and to no one’s surprise they were not alternatives and situations they were willing to consider."
Added McCullers, “From the financial aspect, our philosophy has always been we want to keep a core group of players together over time in a three- or four-year period. We’ve done that.”
Bliss said retaining Schelotto would mean having to get rid of one or two of the core players. The Argentine had nine goals and eight assists in the 2010 regular season and 33 goals and 41 assists in 102 games since joining the club in 2007.
However, 13 of his goals came via penalty kicks and 23 of the assists were on set pieces. At age 37, he did not suit the up-tempo style that Warzycha has desired to play, and the Crew were 9-0-1 without Schelotto in the regular-season lineup these past three years.
“The team has to change a little bit,” Warzycha said. “That’s why we want to go from a team this year that was counterattacking to a team that competes for 90 minutes, adding team speed and individual speed in some areas, especially in front. We want to play attractive soccer again. That’s why we’re trying to improve in some areas."
Schelotto said he understands the team’s wishes to get younger and faster.
“I am professional," he said. "If a decision is made, I have to accept that, but I love playing for the Columbus Crew.”
McCullers said the decision to let the four go was not easy.
“It’s hard to take the emotional and personal aspect out of it but we have to," he said. "That’s part of the job. At the end of the day, we’ve been the most successful club over the past three years and we think we will continue to be successful. We’re going to continue to be contenders.”