"Optimism" leads Crew president to make bold prediction for 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Crew president Mark McCullers understands the fans' trepidation in the wake of Sunday's news that Chilean midfielder Milovan Mirosevic was headed home.

The fact that preseason camp began Monday and the season opener is less than six weeks away only adds to the angst.

"I know there's anxiety," McCullers told MLSsoccer.com. "Look, I feel it, too. But I'm optimistic it is going to come together soon."

Then he delivered a bold prediction, saying that several signings, possibly this week, and the rumored impending trade of midfielder Dilly Duka will not only make the team dramatically better than the 2012 squad that missed the playoffs, but also much more.

"If the scenarios we're working on get completed, I definitely believe we are going to make the playoffs and I believe we are a team that can win the Eastern Conference Championship," he said. "Obviously, if we can do that then the road to MLS Cup could come through Columbus. The MLS Cup could be in Columbus. I believe we're going to have that caliber of team. I really do."

Obviously, several things need to fall into place. The first occurred when the Crew agreed to let Mirosevic out of his contract so he could return to his native Chile after a disappointing first season in Columbus. 

READ: Mirosevic asked the Crew to let him leave for family reasons (FutbolMLS.com)

McCullers called that decision a "win-win." The Crew now have Mirosevic's significant salary available to secure another player and Argentine midfielder Matías Sánchez is among the targets, according to technical director Brian Bliss.

"Because we had fruitful discussions with him back in December, he's a guy we'll go back to and see what the situation is," Bliss told MLSsoccer.com.

Also on the agenda is trading left midfielder Dilly Duka. The Crew have talked to several teams, including reportedly the Chicago Fire. Bliss declined to identify any specific teams he's contacted but said an agreement in principle has been reached to trade Duka.

Still, he said, several things are in discussion. One could be the rights to midfielder Robbie Rogers. The Crew maintain the rights to Rogers, who was in Columbus from 2007 to 2011 before joining English side Leeds United in January 2012. After a loan stint last fall at Stevenage United, where Rogers was coached by former Colorado Rapids manager Gary Smith, he was released by Leeds last week.

"I'm not going to comment as to what was thrown into the deal or what parts are coming back to us but there are other pieces more than just player for player," Bliss said.

For his part, Crew coach Robert Warzycha likes the possible direction of the squad. 

"The team will have more experience," he told MLSsoccer.com. We will be better."

Like McCullers, he is optimistic holes in the roster will be filled. 

"We need to improve our backline," he said. "We are in the process of bringing in a central defender that we think  is very good. We need a second forward and if everything goes right he is going to be a guy who scores a lot of goals."