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Columbus Day

Insider loyalists already know that defender of the year Chad Marshall (out of contract) is being shopped aggressively by his representatives in Germany.

Here's what else I've heard at this late hour......

*Crew Coach Sigi Schmid, also out of contract, is scheduled to meet with the Sounders in Seattle on Thursday.

*MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto has a new contract with the club, but I do not know the details.

*And what began as a rumor at MLS Cup weekend in Los Angeles seems to be gaining traction: Crew GM Mark McCullers appears set to join the front office of the Hunt family's other MLS club, FC Dallas. From what I can gather, current FCD President/GM Michael Hitchcock will oversee non-soccer events at Pizza Hut Park.

By Steve Goff  |  December 2, 2008; 12:37 AM ET
Categories:  MLS  
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Columbus will have a really difficult time if they lose both Marshall and Schmid. What I saw of Iro this year indicated that he could become an above-average MLS center back, but he will have to undergo a quantum leap in positioning and overall reading of the game if he's to get to the level Marshall is currently at. This may also expose O'Rourke; when Schmid said they'd convert him last offseason, I thought the idea was ridiculous and destined to fail spectacularly. Instead, the Marshall-O'Rourke partnership was one of the best. If Marshall goes, O'Rourke will now be the experienced head and leader, which is a different task altogether.

The bigger loss, though, would be Schmid. This year's Crew team was overachieving a bit (not as much as the 2004 team, which went 18 games unbeaten while barely ever looking like anything other than a .500 team). I think Schmid got more out of that group of players than was there to be gotten. He has a special understanding of what to do with Alejandro Moreno, for example, that was a huge factor in their success. He also displayed a perfect understanding of what to do with Brian Carroll, and might have finally helped Eddie Gaven become a reliable contributor.

The team has already lost a key starter in Brad Evans (whose replacement, Adam Moffat, is coming off a catastrophic knee injury), may lose Marshall, and their key player will turn 36 early next season. Their outside backs will turn 35 and 33. Robbie Rogers may also be interested in going back to Europe. Pat Noonan will probably not accept another season on the bench, but there's no place in their current setup to use him. The job Schmid did this year was impressive, but the task will be harder next season. I don't think he'd be able to pull off a repeat, but I think he'd come a lot closer than anyone Columbus could get or anyone on their current staff.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | December 2, 2008 1:48 AM | Report abuse

So Columbus is loosing their one of their best players, their coach, and now their GM too... wow. It's tougher being the MLS champs than I remember.

Posted by: pittmancb | December 2, 2008 2:07 AM | Report abuse

I'm surprised that Columbus would allow their GM and perhaps their coach and top defender to leave after winning the Supporter's Shield and MLS Cup.

Great reporting, SG, and I also enjoy reading Chest Rockwell's comments.

Posted by: billindmd | December 2, 2008 5:04 AM | Report abuse

I don't think there is any sports league that punishes success as much as MLS. A team wins a championship or two, and it can expect to be dismembered at the altar of the salary cap.

The Schmidt to Seattle may not be the slam dunk many think it is, though. Apparently he would have to give up total control of player acquisition, which he may well not want to do. But then again, who would want to stay in the backwaters of small-market Columbus?

Posted by: Ron16 | December 2, 2008 6:52 AM | Report abuse

So the Crew is following the strategy of the Florida Marlins from a few years back... Win something for the first time ever, then sell off anything of value. Rogers will be the next to go.

Posted by: DCUMD | December 2, 2008 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Yes - I'll agree with the lines that it's truly unfortunate that teams in the top half of the table seem to retool far too much as it's hard to get guys willing to take long-term deals with MLS because if they have success the league will lock them in at a price too high for suitors.

Dear Mr. Garber - the investment you make in the rosters and a larger cap now will make people miss the reserve division less and not be so angry about playoffs, promotion/relegation, and single table affairs.

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | December 2, 2008 8:30 AM | Report abuse

No doubt there will be a higher cap, but that has little to do with movement to Europe. The salaries in Europe are MUCH higher. NO increase in the cap will be large enough to bring any kind of parity, even for top players. More to the point, many of the players looking to move to Europe are doing it for two reasons: First, many are trying to prove themselves in a tougher competitive environment, for personal satisfaction and to make them more attractive to the national team manager. Second, those who get their foot in the door in Europe may not get fantastically large pay increases, but if they succeed they know they will get big money on their next contract.

So, the MLS isn't going to be able to keep top talents who show well enough in MLS to attract competitive bids from overseas.

Where increasing the salary cap may help is not in keeping proven commodities like Marshall, but in keeping the unknown players like Luis Robles. Players hoping to crack lineups in the MLS are the ones that are getting paid poverty wages. If the MLS can double the wages of the developmental players, and increase all of the salaries, especially for at the bottom for roster players by 25%, MLS will look more attractive. Right now, the dollar is a pretty good denomination to get paid in, so even relatively small increases would be more attractive than they were a year ago.

As for players wanting to move to Europe for competitive reasons, if the MLS can attract and hold on to better players, that is a process that will start to reverse. If the level of play here gets better, national teams may take MLS players more seriously, and there will be less reason to move. Of course, as we see with Beckham, the schedule presents additional challenges for those wanting to play international football.

The Crew may be lowballing Schmid but that's got nothing to do with Marshall's move. If Goff is right, they've managed to hold on to their best player. And the move of the GM may be an in-house move to bolster a flailing a franchise in Dallas, moving in someone who has shown he knows how to build a winner. When the Hunts own several teams, the dynamic is a little unusual. As for Schmid, it's hard to judge that from the outside. We all hear about how Columbus gives out free and discounted tickets -- and that's for a team that was the class of the league. They will never have the same level of revenues as Seattle.

Posted by: fischy | December 2, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Columbus Day. Four news items, four voyages. Nice parallel Steve.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | December 2, 2008 10:18 AM | Report abuse

DCUMD, in MLS with its salary cap there is not a whole lot of choice. Championship teams get blown up to stay under the cap.

Posted by: Ron16 | December 2, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

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