OBETZ, Ohio – While no official roster moves have been made since the Columbus Crew began their offseason, interim head coach Brian Bliss confirmed to MLSsoccer.com Wednesday that the team had parted ways with Argentinian midfielder Matias Sanchez and the team's first Homegrown signing, forward Aaron Horton.
Bliss said that most personnel moves will be determined in the coming weeks and months, but that it was important for Sanchez and Horton to not continue practicing with the team and risk being “on the hook” for paying the players in the future.
“[Decisions on Sanchez and Horton] were probably determined right near the end of the season with a game to go or two games to go, that regardless of who is the coach, it's probably something we're going to make a break from,” Bliss said after Crew training on Wednesday.
“Finances come into play a lot,” he continued. “At that point, you say the club can't afford for somebody to come out here in meaningless training and [injure] a knee, and then we're on the hook financially until whenever he is declared healthy by a doctor. We'd be on the hook for that, and that would really tie our cap up big-time.”
Sanchez, one of the team's highest-paid players this season, played his first season with the Crew in 2013, and was expected to anchor the team's midfield.
“I don't want to compare one guy to another guy. But we had envisioned more of a [Sounders midfielder Osvaldo] Alonso type at Seattle,” Bliss said. “And that might be overshooting or overstating it. But something like that. [LA Galaxy's] Juninho, [Real Salt Lake's] Kyle Beckerman, things like that. That's kind of what we expected ... I'm not saying he wasn't that, but it didn't project. It doesn't always work out.”
Despite Sanchez's high wages, Bliss said that ultimately the decision was as much to do with performance and his international roster spot as anything, and a lower salary would not necessarily have helped his case.
“Most of it's performance-based,” Bliss said. “Obviously the finances come into play, and with him obviously you've got a foreign spot he's taking up, those are kind of valuable as well. So I think it's all three of those things, really.”
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Horton's disappointing career with the Crew seems to be a case of unrealized potential. After another loan spell, this time with the LA Blues of the USL PRO, where he saw few appearances, the club's first-ever Homegrown signing no longer has a place on the team.
“His attitude was good all year, when he wasn't out on loan and he was here he trained hard. He never caused a problem,” Bliss said. “I don't think he made an overall impact reserve game-wise or in training that we were kind of hoping for. I don't want to say he took a step backward, because he didn't, but I think it was a little bit more of a stagnation.”
Bliss said that both players were aware of the team's decision, and that both were professional about the news. Sanchez even watched the team's Wednesday's practice from the sidelines.
“We talked to those two players, and I'm sure they weren't thrilled,” Bliss said. “But it wasn't like it was totally unexpected. They were good pros about it.”