Futures of Rogers, Ekpo, Burns uncertain in Columbus
OBETZ, Ohio – Eddie Gaven could be the only one of four midfielders, including US international Robbie Rogers, who will get a new contract with the Columbus Crew.
Gaven, Rogers, Emmanuel Ekpo and Kevin Burns will be out of contract at the end of the month and technical director Brian Bliss said he expects Rogers and Ekpo to explore opportunities in Europe.
“I’m not going to put words in Robbie’s mouth, but I think we’re Robbie’s second or third choice,” Bliss said. “He’d rather play in Europe. Ekpo, too.”
Rogers was noncommittal last week before he departed for Paris to join the US national team for its matches against France on Friday and Slovenia on Tuesday, Nov. 15. However, he did acknowledge that his days in Columbus may be over.
“I’ve been happy here,” Rogers said. “I’ve really enjoyed myself the past five years. Of course there’s been ups and down, but to be totally honest, I don’t know what’ll happen. If the opportunity is right and the situation is right, I would like to do [play overseas], but I’m not going to go overseas just to go overseas. It doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve done that before.”
Rogers, 24, left Maryland after one season to sign with Dutch first-division club SC Heerenveen in August 2006, but signed with MLS five months later and was assigned to the Crew through a weighted lottery.
He expressed a desire in March to be traded after not starting the first match of the season and also said at the time that he would likely leave Columbus for Europe when his contract expired.
Rogers started 25 matches and had a career-high seven assists but netted only four goals the past three seasons after scoring six in 2008, when he was named to the MLS Best XI.
“He’s interested in playing in Europe and not interested in playing for the Crew, but he hasn’t had anything, I think, concrete,” Bliss said. “He’s got to do well in these next two national team games. After that, he’ll probably have to go on trial to show what he can do. My guess is Ekpo is pretty much in the same boat.”
Ekpo, 23, moved into the center midfield role and earned his first call-ups to the Nigerian national team this year. He had a goal and two assists for the Crew after not registering any points last season.
“We’re still talking about [a contract],” Ekpo said.
As for the 26-year-old Burns, Bliss said there were preliminary talks, but nothing as of late. Burns started 15 games, primarily at holding midfielder, but isn’t sure of his future in Columbus after not starting the playoff game at Colorado on Oct. 27.
“I don’t know why [I didn’t start],” Burns said. “It’s not my decision. I was really disappointed.”
Bliss was blunt about re-signing Burns.
“You never say never,” he said, “because all of a sudden, you’re down a bunch of guys you didn’t expect for whatever reason then maybe you need the guy or want the guy.”
Gaven, 25, appears ready to ink a new contract for his seventh season with the Crew.
“That’s sorted out,” Bliss said. “It’s a matter of paperwork.”
Gaven, the team’s MVP in 2010, was third on the Crew with five goals this season despite missing eight games with a leg bruise.