Is the Crew doing enough to keep up with the rest of MLS?

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

When I take a look at my social media feed or browse various national sports websites, I see many reports and rumors of player movement in MLS. Players being brought in via transfer or free agents signing with new clubs-there is almost daily news. The one thing that jumps out at me is few, if any, have involved the Crew as of late. Is the Crew doing enough to keep up with the rest of MLS?

What Has Happened So Far

Just a few days after their MLS Cup win, the Crew announced they were not picking up the contract option on four players, none of whom were major contributors in 2023. A couple of others, including Julian Gressel, became free agents. On the surface, Gressel looks like a key loss and, for most teams, that would probably be true. But, as we saw in the playoffs, he is not a good fit for Crew head coach Wilfried Nancy’s system. Gressel signed with Inter Miami the other day.

A little over a week later, Crew President and GM Tim Bezbatchenko made the first of three personnel moves to bolster the roster with the signing of goalkeeper Nicholas Hagen from the Israeli Premier League. Hagen fills the need for a third goalie after Brady Scott was among those whose option was not picked up. Just a few hours later, the announcement was made that the club had signed former Charlotte FC midfielder Derrick Jones. The next day, Bezbatchenko added midfielder Marino Hinestroza via transfer from Pachucha of Liga MX. Three transactions in a little more than 24 hours, but nothing in the three weeks since.

Is There A Good Reason For This?

There might be a good reason why Bezbatchenko has not made more moves. When you look at the Crew’s roster, there isn’t a position with a glaring need. Up front you have Cucho, Diego Rossi, Alex Matan, Christian Ramirez, and the young, but very talented, Jacen Russell-Rowe.

The midfield duo of Darlington Nagbe and Aidan Morris is the league’s best. Hinestroza could take over for Yaw Yeboah at left wingback and you can argue that an upgrade from Mo Farsi could be added. Considering this team won a championship with Yeboah and Farsi starting on the wings, it isn’t like there is a glaring weakness (or any at all) here-both are more than capable players.

Although Malte Amundsen grew into his role and became a solid defender, is it a good idea to add a true center back? Possibly. Veteran Rudy Camacho capably anchors the middle of the back line and Steven Moreira is one of the league’s better defenders.

If there is an area that can be addressed, it may be depth. As the defending champion, the Crew is going to be playing a lot of games this season-LAFC played 54 last year. That means not just depth is needed, but quality depth might need to be added to the roster. Sean Zawadzki and the newly-acquired Jones are utility guys who can play in midfield or the back line. I can see Bezbatchenko wanting to upgrade from Kevin Molino, but center back Yehven Cheberko proved to be a value sub for the back end once he became comfortable in Nancy’s system. I think a wait-and-see attitude needs to be taken when it comes to Russell-Rowe and midfielder Max Arfsten. If those two take a leap in their development, it is going to go a long way in providing the type of quality depth needed.

I don’t doubt that Bezbatchenko is quietly working on more deals. If he sees the opportunity to bring in a real impact player, I’m sure he’ll jump on the chance. But if he’s happy with the current roster, we may see a few more moves aimed toward adding depth players.  

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