With only 17 players under contract, the final makeup of next year's Crew roster remains largely a mystery. But as the front office works to bring the roster up to the league maximum of 30, one key word likely will hover around the team's forthcoming additions: youth.
With only 17 players under contract, the final makeup of next year’s Crew roster remains largely a mystery. But as the front office works to bring the roster up to the league maximum of 30, one key word likely will hover around the team’s forthcoming additions: youth.
After the Crew ended the season with an average age of 25.8 years, the players on the roster now average 24.7 years. As he looked ahead to the different mechanisms in place to acquire players, Crew technical director Brian Bliss said that average likely will decrease further as the club focuses its energies on the draft.
“Draft guys are younger,” Bliss said last week. “We have not won anything recently that would give us more allocation money or traded a player or sold a player to give us allocation money, hence we’re going to need maybe one or two guys more than normal at the lower salary. It’s USL discovery, it’s the draft mechanisms for a few younger, inexpensive guys to help our roster out.”& amp; amp; amp; amp; amp; lt; /p>
Major League Soccer operates with a salary cap that was set at $2.81 million per team last season. Teams can exceed the cap for as many as three designated players, and the Crew signed its third such player this season in Federico Higuain. The cap typically increases by 3 to 5 percent each season.
“Most guys who get raises or get options renewed, they tend to be more than 5 percent, so you’re losing ground every year,” Bliss said.
That reality led in part to the Crew’s opting not to pick up options on seven veteran players last week. However, Bliss said the Crew is continuing to negotiate with several of those players in hopes of bringing them back at a lower price. In addition, midfielder Dilly Duka’s option was picked up but he could be on the trading block, Bliss said.
“With age is experience, and when you’ve got a disparity … you have to lean on those younger guys and they don’t have the seasoning,” he said. “Plus, we try to keep a core unit of guys together to help bridge that gap when you have an overall lowering of the average age.”
In addition to the draft, the Crew figures to be active on the homegrown front. MLS rules allow teams to sign players who have trained in their academy system for at least one year without first exposing them to the draft. The Crew has four top candidates: Akron senior defender Chad Barson and midfielder Wil Trapp, Boston College senior goalkeeper Justin Luthy and UCLA senior defender Matt Wiet.
Given that the Crew has only three defenders under contract, the efforts to sign Barson, Wiet and Trapp — the last of whom was described by Bliss as more of a defensive midfielder — could take on greater importance. Bliss said the Crew is waiting on paperwork to go through for a new defender the club is bringing in and noted that out-of-contract defenders Carlos Mendes and Danny O’Rourke, as well as Sebastian Miranda — one of the players released last week — are in talks to return.
“We’ve got some things going on there,” Bliss said of the defense. “Then you add in Matt Wiet as a potential and Chad Barson and who knows? Maybe our first-round draft pick is a defender. I think we’ve got plenty there to work with.”
The league will hold the first stage of its re-entry draft at 3 p.m. Friday. Last season, the Crew used the draft to select Mendes. This year, it again could be used to help the Crew try to improve its key area of concern: defense.
“I think we would be similarly aggressive in that area knowing that we’ve got some holes that we want to fill,” Bliss said. “We don’t have a lot of money to try and fix some things, but (we have) a fair amount that we can try to take a guy in the league, a proven guy.”