Harrison Afful labeled his move to Columbus back in 2015 as a blessing.
The 34-year-old, a number he was sure to point out, agreed today to a contract extension with Crew SC, a club that he characterized as family.
"So me coming here was a great opportunity for me and I believe me coming here, I did the right thing," Afful said on his path from being out-of-contract overseas to coming to Columbus in the summer of 2015.
"When I came here I saw a different picture. The people of Columbus accepted me. The fans, like when I step on the pitch and I see the fans going crazy, that makes me want to give everything. I put the fans on my heart and make sure I go very hard," he said.
As a then-opponent with Toronto FC, fellow defender Josh Williams recalled the moment he saw Afful play for the first time.
"To me, I remember watching Harry when I first played against him – this defines him for me – it was two minutes in, I remember I was playing for Toronto [FC] at the moment. Justin Meram, I went to visit him before the game the night before and he said ‘yeah, we got a guy – Harrison Afful – who is a right back’. He goes ‘the guy’s amazing’. I was like ‘all right’. Two minutes into the game the next day, this guy traps the ball in the box, flicks it up to himself and heads it back to the goalie under pressure. I remember thinking ‘what the hell was that?’. So, he’s just a special player."
Williams continued on, emphasizing the versatility Afful brings and labeling him as the best right back in the League for a number of years, in his opinion.
"To me he’s been the best right back in the League for a long time. He’s someone who defensively is sound, but I mean, he pretty much plays as a forward," Williams said. "So, someone who can cover that much ground, who is a great guy in the locker room. He’s not much of a vocal leader, but to me he’s more one of those guys that leads on the field."
Fellow countryman and backline teammate Jonathan Mensah echoed that same sentiment.
"He is the kind of player that will fit in any system, any system," Mensah said. "He’s fit in Gregg’s system, he’s fit in Caleb’s system, he’s just a versatile player. Plays left back, right back, and going forward, he gives you a lot, and defensive as well. He’s one of the big pieces for the team and it’s great to see him sign again with the team."
Pragmatically speaking, Head Coach Caleb Porter commented on the age factor and said that Afful's past play gives the club comfort in what's to come in the future.
"With Harry, we know what he can do and we don’t see – based on this year when he was healthy – we don’t see any reason why he can’t do it next year," Porter said. "I think that’s very important. Sometimes there are assumptions on age and things. I think for us, we never make assumptions based on anything other than what we feel the player can do.
"We just have to make decisions based on what we know and the best, as they always say, the best indicator of future performance is past evidence. So Harry has proven that he can do it. He looks young, you know? So forget age, he can do it, and he has proven to be one of the better right backs in the League, he fits our profile and we’re happy to have him back."