The Columbus Crew didn’t pick up the contract options for seven players on Tuesday. Included in those seven were forwards Andres Mendoza (the team’s leading goalscorer last season) and Jeff Cunningham (Columbus’ all-time leading scorer), goalie Alex Riggs, and midfielders Ben Sippola, Kevin Burns, Santiago Prim, and Dejan Rusmir.
Even though he is a Crew legend, Cunningham’s age has finally caught up to him. Riggs, Sippola, Burns, Prim, and Rusmir all made limited positive contributions last year. Burns and Rusmir both made numerous starts in the center of midfield, but they didn’t make enough of an impact to regain their spot on the team for next year.
Of the seven players whose contract options were declined, only Mendoza seems like a minor surprise to me. While making everyone hate him, including fans, coaches, and his own teammates, the Peruvian finished fourth in MLS with 13 goals. It wouldn’t be the biggest surprise in the world, however, if the Crew attempted to resign him for less than Designated Player money. Although, I would be extremely surprised if Mendoza agreed to come back for anything less. I still believe he and Emilio Renteria could cause havoc to the rest of the league if both stayed healthy over the course of a season. With all that being said, don’t expect Mendoza to be back in yellow for Columbus next year.
Cunningham and Burns will both be available for other teams to select in the MLS Re-Entry Draft starting on December 5th. Burns doesn’t plan on sticking around in MLS as he is planning on heading to Germany to continue his playing career.