As you (hopefully) saw in Sunday's paper, Crew technical director Brian Bliss opened up about the team's recent roster moves and direction for next year.

"With the ability of homegrown guys, draft picks, general discoveries, I think we'll be able to restock the guys that we're short on and have the ability to still reach out to some of the players who we declined options on and those guys may still be back," he said." Getting ourselves back to 30 guys is going to take some work but it's not impossible."

As you (hopefully) saw in Sunday’s paper, Crew technical director Brian Bliss opened up about the team’s recent roster moves and direction for next year.

“With the ability of homegrown guys, draft picks, general discoveries, I think we’ll be able to restock the guys that we’re short on and have the ability to still reach out to some of the players who we declined options on and those guys may still be back,” he said.” Getting ourselves back to 30 guys is going to take some work but it’s not impossible.”

The roster currently sits at 17 players, although Bliss also said the team is essentially waiting on paperwork before bringing in a new defender. In addition, the Crew is in discussions with several potential homegrown signees who all could help at the defensive end of the pitch.

“These things, even though they’re pretty cut and dry, they never end up being cut and dry,” Bliss said. “Matt Wiet and Chad Barson, no mystery there. They’re two homegrown guys and two defenders. Wil Trapp is a midfielder but more maybe slanted toward the defensive side. Those are three guys high on our list and we would hope to land two of the three and if we’re fortunate maybe we get all three. It will be difficult to set a timeline on when we can wrap some of that stuff up.”

Goalkeeper Justin Luthy is another top candidate to sign. As for now, however, the Crew sits at three defenders on the roster.

“We’ve still got Josh (Williams), who has come into his own a little bit,” Bliss said. “We’ve got Chad (Marshall). Danny O’Rourke has had his best seasons when he’s played center back. I’m not going to give too much away, but we’re certainly engaging with (Carlos) Mendes, we’re certainly engaging with (Sebastian) Miranda.”

Eric Gehrig is the third defender on the roster. Williams played left back for much of the season after initially breaking into the lineup as a central defender. Bliss said he remains a candidate to stay at left back but said Williams’ natural abilities – namely, the fact that he’s right-footed – could also lend him to the right back position.

Miranda started all but one game in the last two seasons at right back. I figured that made him more of a necessity to the club, but Bliss disagreed.

“Not really,” he said. “He’s been an important part of this club and he’s played a tremendous amount of minutes and serviced the club well. We would like to bring him back. However, he’s in a boat with six or seven other guys that because of salary cap rules and restrictions you’ve got to make some tough choices. I wouldn’t say he’s a casualty of it, but he’s part of it. He’s one of those guys that falls into the boat of continuing to discuss and talk to and maybe finding some happy medium. He has served the club well. “

The lack of depth in the back is also concerning given how the injury bug plagued the Crew in the early going. Marshall missed 10 games due to a concussion and foot injury that eventually required surgery, O’Rourke missed 13 games with various injuries and Mendes had an ongoing hamstring injury that limited him to 12 appearances. Julius James, who along with Marshall and Mendes was one of head coach Robert Warzycha’s top choices in central defense, was also limited to 12 games before not having his option exercised for 2013.

Only four players saw action in 30-plus games this season: Williams (30), Miranda (33), goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum (33) and Eddie Gaven (34).

“Injuries are all part of the season,” Bliss said. “We really took it on the chin early on. It was probably not the most comfortable at the early part, but there was a part when Chad was out and Mendes was out in a six-game window and I think we won four of them. I’m not saying we’re going to be jumping up and down if those guys are out, but I think we’ve got capable bodies still on the roster. If we add a couple we intend on adding, I think the depth will be more than enough to bridge the gap if we get bitten by the injury thing again.”

Marshall missed the final two games including a road loss to D.C. United that eliminated the Crew from playoff contention with the foot injury that would require surgery. Bliss said the team is counting on a return to form from the captain next season.

“I don’t know how long he was nagging with that thing,” Bliss said. “I imagine a bone spur is not the most comfortable thing. How discomforting it was, I was really unaware of and the trainers were as well. Maybe that’s credit to Chad, maybe lack of credit to Chad that he didn’t fix it earlier but I think he was putting the team first maybe. He wanted to be out there playing and, like a lot of pros do, wanted to put it behind him and do what they feel is best for the team. He went and did as much as he could.

“If you asked Chad, comparison to his last 3-4 seasons, yeah, he probably wasn’t at his best but he’s not the only guy that’s in our defensive unit. It starts with the forwards up front and works its way back to the midfield and we’re all somewhat culpable in the defensive area. Chad’s a good player. He’s been a good defender for our club. He wants to win as bad as anyone else does and I’m expecting that he’ll be better next year, especially now that he’s had the surgery on his foot. He’l l be ready to go in preseason.”

The Crew also held onto midfielder Dilly Duka, who struggled to make an impact this season after an impressive offseason with the United States U-23 national team. However, Bliss said that does not mean he is a lock to be in uniform this spring.

“You hate to use the word potential, but as a young player he’s had a fair amount of opportunities to get over what we call the ‘young player syndrome,’ ” he said. “Everybody, including us and some teams around the league know what Dilly’s value is. To arbitrarily not renew his option is a mistake. He’s a valuable part of this team, but he’s also got trade value in terms of getting something else that we need to strengthen our roster. We have some ability to move him and get another piece that can strengthen our squad elsewhere. If that doesn’t come to fruition, Dilly’s a good player. He’s a good pro and he’s going to help our club.”

Although the Crew has parted ways with 13 players from last year’s club, Bliss said the organization likes the core group it has assembled.

“I hate to rattle off stats, but Andy Gruenebaum was a finalist (for goalkeeper of the year),” he said. “Chad has been a defender of the year. (Federico) Higuain was just named newcomer of the year. (Jairo) Arrieta just came off a nine-goal season in 16 games. That’s right down the spine of the field. That’s pretty good in terms of a core, plus the other guys who are around. Eddie Gaven had his best season ever in terms of goal production. We feel good about that. Williams has come into his own a little bit. We feel really strong about that core group of guys. If we can plug in around them some guys I think we’re going to be fine.”

Given that, Bliss said a younger roster is not ideal but a necessary result of the club’s situation.

“It’s always a concern,” he said of getting younger. “It’s always a concern there, but one of the cornerstones of this league and the way it’s been built is there is a salary cap and some of the fallout of that is sometimes you hav eto replace more expensive, older guys with youth. With some of these college kids and the experiences they have today as opposed to 10 years ago and our homegrown guys, they know the system a little bit better than some other guys that you may just randomly draft. That helps.”