Columbus Crew SC announced on Friday the acquisition of Democratic Republic of Congo international Cedrick Mabwati (more commonly known as Cedrick) via transfer. The Black and Gold acquired Cedrick from Real Betis, but he will finish his loan spell with Spanish Second Division side Osasuna before joining Crew SC this summer.
"Cedrick is a young, versatile player with international experience who can make an impact at any of our four attacking positions," sporting director and head coach Gregg Berhalter told TheCrew.com.
Cedrick has made nine appearances for DR Congo including one in each of their three group matches at the African Cup of Nations. He came off the bench in the first match against Zambia and registered an assists before starting the next two matches - against Cape Verde and Tunisia - helping his side to an unbeaten run in the group and qualification for the knockout round. DR Congo will face Congo on Saturday Jan. 31 in the quarterfinals.
"I think it gives players another platform to show themselves," Berhalter said when asked about the importance of having international caliber players on the Crew SC roster. "Then the competition level varies from the MLS so it gives them different experiences on the playing field. I think that's extremely valuable in the development of the player."
Despite being only 22-years old, Cedrick brings unique experience to the Black and Gold, having played on one of Europe's biggest stages. He began is career with Atletico Madrid, making 54 appearances for their B team, before his move to Real Betis. In his debut for Betis, Cedrick registered an assist against Spanish giants Real Madrid. He made 23 total apperances for the club, including 11 in the Europa League.
"What I like about Cedrick is, obviously he's been in Spain for a long time," Berhalter said. "He left his home country and went to Spain as a young player and was in one of the best youth academies in the world in Atletico Madrid. It's not easy to do that and he's learned the game at a very high, technical standard but also has the physicality."
Berhalter believes that Cedrick's proven versatility will be an asset for the club, as it adds more depth to multiple positions. Just like some of his teammates, Cedrick is able to play any of the four attacking spots on the pitch.
"I think he can play in all four positions. That's what attracted us to him. We've seen him play forward, we've seen him play left, we've seen him play right, we've seen him play in the center," Berhalter explained of Cedrick.
"That's what I'm describing is a versatile player. And when we're talking about depth, we're talking about quality along the whole roster, this certainly gives us more quality in our roster."
Although Crew SC would love to have Cedrick with them in preseason and for the beginning of the MLS campaign, the Black and Gold will be happy to add him when the transfer window opens in early summer. Berhalter believes he will be a welcomed addition, coming from such a high level of play in Spain.
"It may take him a little while to get adjusted but he's going to be playing at a high level until then," Berhalter said. "And then we want to bring him over before he's cleared to play. He can be training with us for a couple weeks. We feel like we'll be able to get him integrated and being able to make an impact well before the season's over."
Columbus already has an array of attacking options with Federico Higuain, Justin Meram, and Ethan Finlay (30 goals between them in 2014) and have already made the additions of Kei Kamara, Mohammed Saeid, and Kristinn Steindorsson. The addition of Cedrick will only add to their attack once he is acclimated.
"He's a talent," Berhalter said. "He's a guy that we believe at this level will be able to translate to goals and assists and it's going to be interesting to see how he develops with our system."