Crew move on from longtime icons
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Crew have no plans to negotiate with Guillermo Barros Schelotto or two other former players who are now free agents, technical director Brian Bliss said.
“They’re free to do whatever they want,” he said. “We’re not looking to sign those guys.”
Schelotto, Gino Padula, Duncan Oughton and Frankie Hejduk did not have their contracts renewed and were eligible for the Stage 2 of the MLS Re-Entry Draft on Wednesday.
Former team captain Hejduk was selected by Sporting Kansas City, but the others were not chosen and are clear to talk to any MLS clubs. All four are in their 30s. The Crew expressed a desire to go with younger players, but they chose 34-year-old forward Jeff Cunningham in Wednesday’s draft.
Bliss said that is not a contradiction because Cunningham, whose mark of 132 career goals is one behind MLS leader Jaime Moreno, will be a valuable backup to Emilio Renteria, Andrés Mendoza and Steven Lenhart if he can’t crack the starting lineup.
“We haven’t brought [Cunningham] in to carry the load,” Bliss said. “If it was, it would be a different story. Let’s say Rentería’s gone for Copa América for a month [next] summer, [Cunningham] can come in and start.
"If he can come in and win the spot, great, but if he can’t I could see using him as a starter 10 to 12 games and coming off the bench 15 to 16 times, and at the end of the year he’s got 28 games and he’s picked up nine or 10 goals.”
Cunningham’s 11 goals in 13 starts (27 games) were two more than Schelotto had in 2010.
“He showed he can still play,” head coach Robert Warzycha said of Cunningham. "He hasn’t lost his speed."
Even if he has lost a step, Bliss isn’t worried.
“He can’t run the 40 like he used to, but from the top of the box to the 6-yard box is only 12 yards.”
The Crew are in the early stages of rebuilding a roster that has 15 players under contract. Former Kansas City defender Aaron Hohlbein was taken in the first stage of the Re-Entry draft last week, but has not signed. Bliss said he spoke with the player's agent on Monday
Also, the team has made offers this week to two South American players – a defender and a striker – and are awaiting responses.
Finally, another 34-year-old former Crew forward is not in the team’s plans at the moment. Stern John (44 goals in the 1998 and '99 seasons with Columbus) is coming off knee surgery last summer and has done much of the rehab work in Columbus and would like to play again with the Crew. The Trinidadian is a free agent.
“He’s on our radar, but we did not put him on our Discovery List,” Bliss said. “It would be a tough proposition [to sign him].”
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