As indicated last week here on Pittsburgh Soccer Report, while nothing has been confirmed, a continued partnership into 2017 between the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew appears likely.
While we won’t know much about what the Riverhounds roster will look like in 2017 (they have added four young, recent college players to roster that includes Kevin Kerr and Chevaughn Walsh), there are four players from the Crew that saw significant time in Pittsburgh in 2016, that will likely start the season in Columbus — Marshall Hollingsworth, Cristian Martinez, Ben Swanson and Zach Steffen.
Two starters from Columbus Crew’s SC 2015 MLS Cup runner-up team aren’t currently on the 2017 roster: goalkeeper Steve Clark (option declined) and defender Michael Parkhurst (out of contract). Clark and Parkhurst both started 100 of 102 regular-season games over the last three seasons.
“With both of those players, the situation is still up in the air,” Crew sporting director and head coach Gregg Berhalter told the Columbus Dispatch. “I think there are going to be options for them around the league and, again, with them nothing’s closed. We’re also not close to a deal with either of those players.”
The status of those two key players from recent years — along with some additional roster movement (see below) might provide opportunity for both Hollingsworth and Steffen, who each shined in Pittsburgh, to earn roster spots with the MLS squad in 2017.
The Crew completed decisions on players under contract from its 2016 roster, exercising the options on five additional players: including Hollingsworth and Martinez along with defender Nicolai Naess and midfielders Dilly Duka and Mohammed Saeid. All but Saeid were signed in 2016.
Columbus earlier announced it had picked up options on Designated Player Federico Higuain and fellow midfielders Wil Trapp and Justin Meram.
It also did not exercise the contract options of goalkeeper Matt Pacifici, defender Corey Ashe and midfielder Cedrick Mabwati. Defender Chad Barson — who also played in two forget-able games for the Hounds, is also out of contract.
“Our goal is to return to being one of the conference leaders,” said Berhalter in a club statement. “Today’s moves are another step in that direction as we continue to shape the roster for 2017.”
2017 Columbus Roster (bold – played with Pittsburgh in 2016):
GOALKEEPERS (2): Zack Steffen, Brad Stuver.
DEFENDERS (4): Harrison Afful, Waylon Francis, Nicolai Naess, Gaston Sauro.
MIDFIELDERS (12): Dilly Duka, Ethan Finlay, Federico Higuain, Marshall Hollingsworth, Hector Jimenez, Cristian Martinez, Justin Meram, Mohammed Saeid, Rodrigo Saravia, Ben Swanson, Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp.
FORWARDS (2): Adam Jahn, Ola Kamara.