Crew TSII: More Tufts of Grass to Trip Over in Zurawski Chase & More

Soccer America’s Ridge Mahoney turned his pre-season maneuver series to the Columbus Crew this morning. While the piece focused on Guillermo Barros Schelotto – who seems both a wily one and happy to be in Columbus – some of what happened with the Argentine legend impacts the Crew’s surprisingly tricky pursuit of Celtic FC’s Polish forward, Maciej Zurawski.

Beyond discussing how the Crew plan to play Schelotto in their offensive scheme for 2008, Mahoney’s piece mentions that the team bumped his pay – quite probably by way of thanking him for 2007 and sweetening him on staying in Ohio (or bribing him to do so; interpretations can be tricky). The key details:

“Columbus doesn’t seem willing to pay DP prices for Zurawski, and with some allocation money being paid to Schelotto, might not have the funds necessary to buy out Zurawski’s contract and offer him an acceptable salary….Celtic had slapped a transfer price of $1 million on him and he’s also attracted offers from Germany, but after tomorrow those doors will close, so it may behoove the Crew to sit tight.”

Since Mahoney’s following a different story than I am, he explains higher in the article why “it may behoove the Crew to sit tight”: unlike the European transfer window, MLS’s timeline allows them to acquire players through April; in other words, if no European club picks up Zurawski by midnight tonight (or something like that), he turns into a pumpk….wait, no, that means he’s looking at something damned close to languishing in Glasgow or starting every game in Columbus (till he gets injured five games in, anyway). But the upshot of that is significant: the Crew took some of the allocation money they received by dealing Marcos Gonzalez to Club Deportivo Universidad Catolica and by, um, “failing to succeed” in ’07 and dished it to Schelotto. Who knows? Maybe that’s what helped convince him to stay…though something else entirely may have gone down (see the “wily one” link above).

Actually, Mahoney’s piece – which, to compliment the man, is a real goldmine – answered a question I had from the SuperDraft: why Andy Iro over other defenders people seemed higher on, Julius James in particular? The answer (and this is Schmid talking):

“Andy has more size and is left-footed, which means he can play with Chad [Marshall] or Danny O’Rourke and be comfortable. The last thing was he’s more outgoing on the field and talks and organizes a little bit more.”

Good reasons. And, speaking of Schmid, and by way of closing this out, Shawn Mitchell of Covering the Crew and the Columbus Dispatch got some nice quotes out of the man…not least significant, Schmid’s thoughts on how many lives he has going into 2008. (ANSWER: Not many.) But it’s Schmid’s answer as to why he drafted George Josten in the SuperDraft brings up the $64K question for the Crew this year: if they don’t take the plunge on Zurawski, or some other player, will the rookies they drafted – “Meet” George Josten and Ricardo Pierre-Louis – bring enough goals to get this team over the hump? Which gamble carries the lowest risk? We may never know the answer to that one, but we will know before too long whether the option the Crew went with worked.

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