After announcing on Friday that the Columbus Crew had declined the options of six players – including high-profile internationals Jairo Arrieta and Gláuber and longtime Crew veteran Danny O'Rourke – head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter made it clear that the decisions were based mainly on salary.
“These were pretty straightforward ... It's basic, these things,” Berhalter (above) told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “Unfortunately, in our system with the salary cap, you have to make these decisions when the performance dips.”
Berhalter said that he respected what O'Rourke had done in his time with the Crew, and made it clear that finances were to blame.
“It's purely financially motivated,” Berhalter said. “Last year, he had a little bit of injury problems, and he wasn't able to perform in all the games. We just felt his number was too high. That doesn't mean we don't value what he can bring to a team and we don't value what he did in the past.”
Berhalter said that both Arrieta and Gláuber were in similar positions, and did not rule out bringing any of the trio back at a reduced rate.
“We didn't get into specifics, but it's something we're considering with all three of them,” Berhalter said. “We just have to make sure the number fits our budget and we're in line, and that the guys want to be back and want to be part of something with a reduced number. And that's not always the case.”
For defenders Drew Beckie and Kyle Hyland and midfielder Konrad Warzycha, who already make the league minimum, it was a matter of Berhalter not seeing a spot for them in the Crew lineup.
“In these cases, for them to continue their career, they need to be playing first team football,” Berhalter said. “For them, it's can we get to a situation where they're playing regularly and getting a chance to get into the league?”
- Get more Crew news and notes at TheCrew.com
The Crew did pick up the option for midfielder Tony Tchani, who has struggled with consistency, and Berhalter said that keeping the 24-year-old Cameroonian had enough potential to make his salary worthwhile.
“I think there's an upside, and I think there's potential for him,” Berhalter said. “The number was on the borderline, but when he's performing, I'm confident that he can make an impact.”
With the funds cleared by the likes of Arrieta, Gláuber, O'Rourke and the retiring Eddie Gaven, Berhalter and the Crew now have a large chunk of salary cap to play with, and the sporting director said that the club hasn't decided whether to spend it on a few high-cost players or spread it among more.
“We're positioning ourselves to do either, but more importantly to bring in quality,” he said. “When we see a quality player who can add to the roster, we'll be able to act on him. When you have that money tied up and you see a quality player, you can't always act on it. So we're positioning ourselves to be able to move in the market.”