Eric Gehrig wins a header over Robert Earnshaw
USA Today Sports

Columbus Crew SC confident in remaining players after losing Eric Gehrig and Jairo Arrieta in Expansion Draft

As has become customary for the club, Columbus Crew SC lost two players to Orlando City SC in Wednesday's MLS Expansion Draft.

But unlike previous years, they seem to have dodged losing a crucial piece, as the two players selected were the out of contract Eric Gehrig and underperforming Costa Rican forward Jairo Arrieta, whose option was declined last month.

And just hours after the draft, Crew SC boss Gregg Berhalter made it clear that things could have been far worse.

"In terms of our group right now that we have, I'm comfortable with it," he said of the 23 players remaining on the club's roster. "We did a good job of protecting the young core of our team, and we look forward to building a stronger team for next year."

But that doesn't mean that Columbus lost nothing. Gehrig was the team’s longest-tenured player and a huge locker room influence, even if negotiations between Crew SC and the outside back – who was traded from Orlando to Chicago later on Wednesday – had slowed down.

"The negotiations were not necessarily at a standstill, but it was something that was put on hold," Berhalter said. "We were obviously concentrating on the [drafts] and we were going to wait to get through the expansion period to continue that. But having left him unprotected, we understood the gravity of the situation and we understood that we might not have him around. That was a risk we were willing to take."

Arrieta's selection, however, may have been the best scenario for the Crew. The Costa Rican wasn't coming back to the club, and Crew SC gained allocation money and the ability to protect promising talent Ben Speas with his selection.

"Jairo had value in this league, and if he wasn't going to play a role with us next season, I'm glad he found a place and I'm glad someone saw that in him," Berhalter said. "For us, we got to pull a player back and we got the allocation chunk, which was helpful."

Now, Berhalter and the Crew will turn their focus to replacing Wednesday's selections and Bernardo Añor and Josh Williams, both of whom were traded Monday.

"We're looking at four players gone from our roster," Berhalter said. "There's about 5,200 minutes of playing time lost, 11 goals and three assists that are gone, and we're going to have to replace that, there's no question... What we gained is allocation. And we gained the ability to keep a lot of the guys together in the way we wanted within the salary cap. So we have work to do to replace them, but we're confident we'll be able to do so."

Berhalter confirmed that the team is working on an imminent signing, but isn't confirming what kind of player that may be or whether recent links to Egyptian midfielder Omar Gaber are legitimate.

"I would say we're close to a signing, but I wouldn't comment on what position he may or may not be," he said. "We'll have to wait and see."