It was news that many Crew SC fans were anticipating hearing: midfielders Bernardo Anor and Justin Meram have re-signed with the club.
After the breakout season that each experienced under Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter, it's another positive offseason development for a team that experienced an overall surge in 2014, with these two players at the heart of it all. They comprise two of the 25 players currently on the Black & Gold's roster, with 22 of those players returning from last season. While the re-signings are important because they help keep the core of the team together, they're also great indications of the individual strides each player made, according to Berhalter.
"It's more an indication of how guys have performed and how they've increased their value," said the Crew SC boss. "Bernardo and Justin have had very good seasons and positioned themselves to get new contracts. That's a testament to them and their hard work and how they interpreted those midfield positions."
How did Berhalter see each player develop this season?
"Bernardo had a lot of versatility this year. He played a number of positions and he helped us in a number of different ways. Justin, his role, he executed a number of different roles, and what I mean by that is that as a substitute, he was effective, and also as a starter, he became effective. He really became a threat both passing and scoring."
Meram, in particular, had an eventful 2014 when you factor in his call-up by Iraq and his first three caps -- experience that will help him take his game to the next level.
"It puts him on a different platform, and that's the international stage," said Berhalter. "It gives him exposure to a different type of player and different types of conditions. It only will benefit him and mature him as a player."
Anor and Meram help make up an attacking midfield group that is arguably one of the deepest in MLS. Ethan Finlay signed a contract extension down the stretch of the 2014 campaign, and earlier in the offseason, the options of players like Federico Higuain, Hector Jimenez and Ben Speas were picked-up.
"It says a lot to the guys that they were able to step up in those positions and perform," said Berhalter on his club's depth. "You need the right amount of depth and we're evaluating that right now to make sure that we're good in that department."
Of course, one element on everyone's mind is the impending Expansion Draft. Crew SC's 11-man protected list is due to the League next Monday, following the half-day trade window on that same day. How do these moves affect what the Black & Gold are planning, if at all?
"Like most clubs, you're busy trying to limit the damage," said Berhalter. "If you can get some deals done beforehand, we'll look to do that potentially, so we'll see."
One other deal that Crew SC fans might be wondering about is the status of out-of-contract defender Eric Gehrig. Berhalter confirmed that the club was speaking with Gehrig.
"We're in constant communication. For us, it's about finding the right solution."