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When the Columbus Crew won the 2008 MLS Cup Final, it had a deep and strong team that many believed could potentially become a dynasty.
Two years later, that MLS Cup remains the only championship won by the club, with two straight first-round playoff exits forcing the Crew to consider making major changes.
Those changes are set to be made now as the Columbus Dispatch reported on Monday that the Crew planned on not exercising the contract options of Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Frankie Hejduk, Gino Padula and Duncan Oughton.
"Today the coach told me he wanted to make the team young," Schelotto told the Dispatch on Monday. "They have made the decision."
By parting ways with Schelotto, the Crew is saying goodbye to arguably the most influential player in the club's history, the player who led the Crew to that 2008 MLS Cup title. A player who once again led Columbus in goals and assists this season.
What is next for Schelotto? It is looking like a move to another team in MLS.
Schelotto is expected to be made available in the league's new re-entry draft next month, meaning MLS clubs will have the option of signing him at his Designated Player-level option year. If all teams pass, Schelotto could be re-signed by MLS to a smaller deal, and go into another re-entry draft.
Long story short, Schelotto should be back in MLS and there should be several teams lining up for his services.
Who exactly? Here are some possibilities:
D.C. UNITED– With Jaime Moreno departing, the club could certainly use Schelotto's skill and playmaking ability. Imagine a Schelotto-Juan Pablo Angel pairing in D.C.
HOUSTON DYNAMO– The club needs an attacking spark and Schelotto could fit right in. This is assuming the Dynamo don't already have a playmaker lined up, which some rumors suggest they do.
CHIVAS USA– The Goats need plenty, but a playmaker is at the top of that list. Would Chivas USA spend the money to make it happen, or if the team's new coach will want Schelotto.
NEW YORK RED BULLS– It's probably unlikely, but the idea of having Schelotto setting up Thierry Henry and Juan Agudelo and working with Rafa Marquez would be special.
As for Columbus, the Crew can't be blamed for wanting to turn to youth, but the team absolutely better have a replacement for Schelotto on the radar because a Columbus team without him in 2011 isn't going to come close to challenging for MLS Cup, or beating Real Salt Lake in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.
Here is what Columbus can look like minus the veterans it is cutting loose:
That isn't a bad squad, but one clearly in need of either a top striker or playmaker.
What do you think of the Crew's decision? Where would you like to see Schelotto wind up?
Share your thoughts below.