Crew TSII: And Then He Kicked ‘Em in the Nuts…

Weird day in Columbus. As of, let’s see, 7:07 a.m. the Columbus Crew had reached an agreement with Scotland’s Celtic FC on a transfer fee for Polish forward Maciej Zurawski. And there was some rejoicing, perhaps a little apprehension about spending so much money on one player, etc.

By 1:06 p.m. a post by the same reporter (the rough-and-ready and, lately, fairly busy Shawn Mithcell) on Covering the Crew found something on Celtic’s website saying that Zurawski is going to Greece, to some club named for a girl to be specific. Maybe Maciej got to talking with Cleetus…

Mitchell promised more information later (in the post, not to me; I don’t know the guy or anything), so we’ll learn more later – perhaps even that “Larissa” (the Greek club in question) was some kind of really bad typo for Columbus.

Getting back to the Columbus Dispatch’s report, there was something else in there I was going to flag, a passage on what a hairy pain-in-the-ass coming to America can be:

“But the negotiations are not strictly among clubs, players and their agents. Each step, to some degree, must be approved by the league office.

For what it’s worth, I think the part in bold is something that needs to change. With teams like the New England Revolution or the Houston Dynamo scrounging for players, it seems a little burdensome and a lot silly, that they have to hit up the league office to sign their 27B-6 on top of negotiating with players and their entourages. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Major League Soccer (MLS) has lost players to that in the past. And the way it diffuses responsibility to the point where players can’t be 100% who’s saying no to a move – as happened with Taylor Twellman (though he’s pretty sure where the buck stopped) – well, I don’t think that brings much comfort to players either.

I’m not saying that’s what happened here. I have no way of knowing as much, for starters. But, if I were a player looking to join a league and I saw the maze of hoops MLS puts in front of player movement, I’m pretty sure I’d hop to Greece too. I’m just saying. The pisser is, it doesn’t need to be this hard: have a salary cap, shift around draft and allocation picks to help with parity, and let the teams succeed or fail. People generally regard micro-managing as a bad thing for a reason.

Looks like the Crew and their fans may yet get to see how “Meet” George Josten and Ricardo Pierre-Louis work out after all…

UPDATE: Curiouser and curiouser…was Columbus ever the destination?  Sure as heck sounded like it.

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.” Continue reading

The Nut of the Crew’s Striker Search

The Columbus Dispatch’s Shawn Mithcell takes the Columbus Crew’s quest for Maciej Zurawski to the “real” newspaper today, providing impressive detail on where things stand. The apparent pivot point in this deal shows in the following:

“How much Celtic is asking for the transfer and how much Zurawski is asking to be paid has not been made public, although it is estimated that both figures would be between $250,000 and $1 million.”

“McCullers would not divulge any dollar amounts related to the deal, including how much ownership was willing to spend. He said only that Hunt Sports Group was treating the situation in a ‘prudent’ fashion.”

And, it bears noting, Mitchell quotes Columbus coach Sigi Schmid as being “not as optimistic” about the deal as he was a couple days back.

That little slug of information prompts a couple related questions? First, is Zurawski worth as much as $1 million to the Crew? (Or is it $2 million? With all due respect to both Mitchell and the editorial staff at the Dispatch, the language on the money involved isn’t as clear as it could be; would “both” mean the combined figures for the transfer fee and Zurawski’s salary amount to $1 million, or does that mean each of them would total between $250K and $1 million? This isn’t a slam – I’m sure I post baffling language five times a day – but it is a significant distinction.) Second (after the long digression), should the Crew just suck it up and take the chance?

With the “other designated player options” cited by McCullers duly noted, I’d pull the trigger – assuming a $1 million total; push it to $2 million and the other options take on a fresh, new shine. Simply put, the Crew needs strikers. And, if they’re convinced Zurawski is good for it, they should just sign the man.

(UPDATE: For what it’s worth, MLS Rumors is charging Sigi with coyness…albeit very indirectly.  By that I mean, they’re reporting the Zurawski signing as a done deal.  We shall see…we shall see…).

Player Movements: The Sun Shines in Columbus, Hides from Colorado (+ 1 More)

In spite of the fact that the entire country seems under the thumb of a brutal winter, the Columbus Dispatch’s blog caught a sunbreak over Columbus: Guillermo Barros Schelotto reported for duty as scheduled (whoops; I overread this.  UPDATE: Schelotto is scheduled to show tomorrow; he’s only in Columbus today.  Thanks, again, to Covering the Crew, Shawn Mitchell’s blog for the Dispatch, for providing that detail, plus many, many, many more.  That blog is yours (and my) one-stop Crew news source.)

Now, if they can only bag Polish forward Maciej Zurawski – and he plays half as well as advertised (I’ve never seen him; no opinion) – the Crew may yet play a little offense this year. It sounds like negotiations are progressing, though one has to worry about this phrase: “MLS and Celtic were not close to an agreement on a transfer fee.” Yes. That does complicate things…

Still, if and when that gets wrapped up, Crew fans can worry about the defense…what with Marcos Gonazlez gone to Chile…though my trolling of the BigSoccer boards unearthed some deep unease about the Crew’s off-season progress (I think things turn ugly right around here, if not before).

Turning for a second to my “other” 2008 team, the question of whether Christian “Surplus” Gomez comes over from DC United looks like the only game in town. Here’s the latest as BigSoccer people know it (it’s one of those discussions absent news – e.g. the mechanics of the deal, e.g. the stuff about which I know so much less than jack and, somehow, care even less – don’t say I didn’t warn you).

– Just one other item of as-yet covered trade dish: Remember that Raphael Wicky (Wicky-Wicky-Woo…sorry) cat? The one Chivas USA sniffed around a little last year (if memory serves)? MLS Rumors says they’re at it again.

Between my total ignorance of both Wicky and Zurawski, it could be time for me to broaden my soccer-viewing horizons…at least during the off-season.