The Columbus Crew cut three defenders on Wednesday, but president and general manager Mark McCullers (above) said the signing of a Designated Player is not imminent – sort of.
“That’s not true,” he replied when asked by MLSsoccer.com if a deal for a forward is close to fruition. “You have to check with me hour by hour,” he added with a smile. “We’re working hard on it. We’re going to do our best to make a really quality decision here.”
The team cleared salary cap and roster space by waiving Shaun Francis, Korey Veeder and rookie Aubrey Perry. Francis’ departure, a Jamaican national, frees room for the expected international signee.
“We want to prepare ourselves,” McCullers said. “We need to make these decisions now. We’re setting the roster up for the likelihood we’ll get something done.”
Head coach Robert Warzycha said the team is targeting a European as their first choice but at least one other player from South America is being considered.
“Something can happen at any time,” he said. “If not, we’re going to make a decision on somebody else. But we already made the decision and we’re proceeding on one guy.”
Wednesday marked the opening of the month-long transfer window and Costa Rican forward Jairo Arrieta, signed in April, will be added to bring the roster to 28, two under the maximum.
Goalkeeper William Hesmer and forward Tommy Heinemann, both on the season-ending injury list, do not count against the roster but their salaries are taken into account.
“That really put us in a bind,” McCullers said.
Another factor in the timing of the moves is that contacts are guaranteed after July 1, so releasing the trio was prudent.
“It would be really, really bad if you did not have room for a DP,” Warzycha said. “Then, we would have already shot ourselves in the foot.”
McCullers and Warzycha said they would be comfortable going with only 29 players the rest of the season if a DP is acquired to replace forward Andrés Mendoza, whose option was not picked up after scoring a team-high 13 goals last season.
The club made an offer last month to an unnamed Argentine but an agreement was not reached.
“The parameters are not only financial,” McCullers said. “They’re team fit, cultural fit. We want to help our team. The other thing is we like our guys here. We want to bring somebody in who’ll complement them. We’re being diligent.”
While Veeder and Perry were limited reserve matches in their career, Francis played 10 games this season (six starts) and 28 as a member of the Crew in three years. The left back lost his starting job to Nemanja Vukovic but still had a team-best three assists.
Warzycha said center back Josh Williams was originally signed in 2010 as a left back and can play there and midfielder Bernardo Añor is being groomed for the position.
“We can trade for a left back, too,” Warzycha said.