Major League Soccer

Columbus Crew focusing on 'staying healthy' but expect 'four or five' transfers

Chris Smith
The Crew suffered a setback last year, but are gearing up for a big 2022 campaign.
The Crew suffered a setback last year, but are gearing up for a big 2022 campaign. / Nicolas Galindo/The Columbus Dispatch /
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Columbus Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has insisted there's no intention to overhaul the club's roster, but has confirmed there will be new signings ahead of the new season.

After winning MLS Cup in 2020, the Crew failed to even reach the Playoffs last season, finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference, two points adrift of the New York Red Bulls in the final post-season spot.

But rather than any particular tactical or mental failing, the Crew suffered greatly from injuries and absences to key players. Whether through time on the treatment table or away on international duty, the likes of Artur, Gyasi Zardes, Milton Valenzuela, and Kevin Molino all missed extended periods in 2021, while one of the stars of their MLS Cup final success, Aidan Morris, sat out the entire campaign with an ACL injury.

Bezbatchenko's main aim next season is to keep the Crew's existing players fit for action as much as possible, though he did confirm moves will be made in the market.

“Our most significant improvement is going to come by staying healthy," he told reporters on Tuesday (via MLSsoccer.com). "We won MLS Cup two years ago then added to that [roster], but we got injured. The idea is that if we’re healthy, we’re going to be competitive. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to bring new players in, but this roster doesn’t need wholesale changes. We’re looking at players who could be starters, we have some homegrown signings we’re looking to finish.”

Head coach Caleb Porter was a little more specific about the level of Columbus' potential transfer activity, revealing he expects "four or five" players to be added to his roster ahead of February's big kick-off.

“I know it’s been quiet, but we’ve got a plan," Porter said. "We’ve got certain positions we’re looking at. You’re going to see moves made here the next several weeks. I feel confident by the start of the year we’ll have another four or five guys added and we’ll be in good shape.”

To date, Ghanian winger Yaw Yeboah is the Crew's only addition this off-season. But the 24-year-old comes with an impressive CV that includes time spent in the Manchester City youth system and 10 goals and five assists in 50 matches across all competitions for Polish side Wisla Krakow, who Columbus reportedly paid between $1.4m and $1.7m for his services.

“On the wings, we didn’t get enough production," Porter said. "Yaw Yeboah is a guy who will produce goals. He’s athletic, a two-way player. Individually, he can create for himself and has goals for him; we feel we’ve gotten better on the wings. That doesn’t mean we didn’t already have good players (on the wing), but we feel Yaw Yeboah will add from the top. He’ll bring a little something different that teams will have to worry about.”

The Crew begin their 2022 campaign at home to the Vancouver Whitecaps on February 26.

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