Six new faces; depth options; a Young Designated Player; immediate contributions; and a 2020 welcoming still to come.
It has been a busy couple of months for Columbus Crew SC as the summer transfer window officially closed on Wednesday, Aug. 7 at 11:59 p.m. CT.
After nearly eight months since the introduction of President and General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko and Head Coach Caleb Porter, the initial evidence has been laid out over the last five months of regular-season action, giving the new Crew Front Office a chance to evaluate needs in accordance with its start-of-the-season plan.
So, let us review the fast-paced summer changes following Wednesday night's deadline, starting with the additions:
Of the six players who have been added to the roster since July 1, we start with forward and Jamaican international Romario Williams.
Williams was acquired from Atlanta United in exchange for $100,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) and has proved already impactful in just three appearances after scoring his first Club goal in his debut as part of a 2-2 draw at Chicago on July 17.
A physical player with a wide skillset, Bezbatchenko spoke on what he brings to the table as an immediate contributor and an important depth option.
“We are excited about his versatility,” Bezbatchenko said. “He has been with a couple of clubs now and has not been able to break through and be a regular starter. It is important for us to not only increase our depth, but also sign players that are hungry and want to make a difference.”
Speed and youth best describe Luis Diaz at this point.
At 20 years old, Diaz, who came from Club Sport Herediano of Costa Rica’s First Division as a Young Designated Player, was named the Best Under-21 Player by Costa Rica’s union of First Division soccer clubs and has already notched two assists in four appearances since officially joining on July 2.
Additionally, the winger made his first Club start in the Crew’s 1-1 draw against San Jose, highlighted by this run…
…which led to this assist.
“We see a player who is hungry and has a great personality,” Bezbatchenko said on Diaz. “All of the feedback in the scouting, the references were very positive of Luis. In the early days, it has proved that to be the case.”
Following Diaz's announcement, two days had passed before the Crew made another addition. On July 5, Columbus gave a warm “Bon Bini” to Curacao international and 2019 Gold Cup standout goalkeeper Eloy Room.
Room came to Crew SC from PSV Eindhoven of the Netherlands’s top league, and is still unbeaten as a Black & Gold member (2-0-1), including garnering a win in his Club debut while making a season-high four saves in a 1-1 draw at second-place San Jose.
As a shot-stopper with good footwork and passing ability, his leadership presence is also a big factor.
“He is the type of guy who fits our profile. He has good feet. He has great experience. He is a leader,” Porter said. “There is a lot of thought that goes into these additions. It is not just playing profile, but it is also how they are going to fit into the group. With Eloy, we knew that he was going to come in as a leader.”
Saves likes this also help boost his cause:
Jordan Hamilton joined the Club on July 11 and was a familiar face to Bezbatchenko during their overlapping tenures at Toronto FC. Hamilton was one of the first Homegrown Players Bezbatchenko signed up north, and similar to Romario Williams, he has proven himself as a valuable contributor when he is on the field.
“As I know with Jordan, if he gets minutes, he scores goals. The question is if he can continue to build on his game to add other attributes than just scoring, including various ways to move defenders to open up space for other attacking players. I am excited to see what Jordan can do with the Columbus Crew,” Bezbatchenko said.
A physically imposing forward with shot-taking abilities on both feet, Hamilton has already made the Matchday 18 once since joining less than a month ago. A high work-rate player who can help in the build-up, Bezbatchenko noted Hamilton's scoring ability and highlighted his top-tier physical attributes as a key addition to the Crew's front line.
A PSV Eindhoven Academy product, Youness Mokhtar officially joined the Crew on July 19 from Stabaek of Norway’s First Division and most recently made his Matchday 18 debut in the Crew’s 1-1 draw at San Jose on Aug. 3.
Creative and dynamic on the wing with goal-scoring capabilities is Mokhtar; all attributes the Club has either a) been in need of this season and b) can certainly utilize in the long-term.
“Youness is a player who likes to start out wide, then he can get to the end line to get a cross in, maybe a back-stick cross or a cutback to the top of the box,” Bezbatchenko said.
“What we also like to see is that he can also float into the pocket, into the left and the right, and get on the ball either slot a pass into Gyasi or wiggle past a player and get his own shot. His ability to do all those things makes him a unique player on our roster.”
As Mokhtar gets into match-shape (he came to the Crew during his offseason), expect to see more from the Moroccan international.
Chris Cadden is a 2020 vision.
The Scottish midfielder/defender showed interest in joining the Club from Scottish Premiership side Motherwell, but due to various roster and budget constraints, Cadden immediately went on loan to Oxford United FC of England’s League One before he joins the Crew ahead of the 2020 season.
“In the global game of soccer, you can acquire players and loan players out and we have done that with a number of our players, with the USL, we did it with Lalas Abubakar with the Colorado Rapids, and it is just the same thing with Chris Cadden,” Bezbatchenko said.
For the Crew, Cadden will join the family in January, and in the meantime he will receive regular minutes and reps with Oxford United, who drew Sunderland 1-1 in the opening match of League One's 2019-20 campaign.
Of course, with additions there are subtractions.
Midfielder Robinho, who was acquired on January 28, 2019, was traded to Orlando City SC on July 11 after making 19 regular-season appearances, including 13 starts, for the Crew.
As part of the trade with Hamilton, forward Patrick Mullins was sent to Toronto FC on July 11 after posting 19 appearances and four starts with the Black & Gold, while tallying one goal since joining the Club on July 12, 2018.
Over a week later, goalkeeper Joe Bendik was traded to the Philadelphia Union on July 19 in exchange for a Second Round Selection in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft. Bendik made six starts with the Black & Gold since joining on Dec. 27, 2018.
Defender Gaston Sauro was the longest-tenured Crew player to make a move away from Columbus, as the Argentine centerback was recently traded to Liga MX side Deportivo Toluca FC on Aug. 7 after five seasons with the Crew, in which he made 39 regular-season appearances after initially joining the Club on Aug. 6, 2015.
Lastly, midfielder Niko Hansen was the latest Crew member to be traded, as the Crew's First Round 2017 MLS SuperDraft Selection made 45 appearances overall, including 16 starts while scoring four goals and notching five assists.
Now, with the summer transfer window officially closed, Porter likes where the team stands heading into the final stages of the 2019 regular season.
“We always had a plan,” Porter said, “[to] look at certain areas of our team and we knew in the summer we were going to make additions.
“We feel like in this window that we have improved. We have gotten more quality. We have more competition. We have players that will raise the standard and we have players who will fit the profile on and off the pitch.”
Following the closing of the transfer window, the Crew looks to go unbeaten in five straight matches on Saturday as Columbus hosts FC Cincinnati at MAPFRE Stadium on Aug. 10 at 7:30 p.m. ET.