Another piece of the Columbus Crew SC offseason evolution was put into place today. The team announced the signing of free agent defender Corey Ashe. The veteran defender spent the second half of last season with Orlando City SC, following eight and a half seasons with the Houston Dynamo. He won an MLS Cup in 2007, his rookie year, and featured on the losing side in the 2011 and 2012 versions of MLS' showpiece match. He also featured in two MLS All-Star Games.
"We would like to thank Corey for choosing Columbus Crew SC. He is a dynamic fullback who has played a big role on successful teams throughout his tenure in this League," said head coach Gregg Berhalter. "He has won an MLS Cup, has played in two more and will provide veteran leadership and experience to our backline. We feel that Corey will be an ideal fit for our system."
He will add depth at full back for Crew SC, who were left looking a little light at the position following the departure of Chris Klute last week. Ashe brings plenty of MLS experience, with 220 appearances, 163 of them being starts.
Ashe on paper looks to be a good fit for Berhalter's system. He has played on both the left and the right of the defense as well as on the outside of the midfield. His reputation is as a speedy attack minded wingback, who is at home getting forward. He's scored a single goal in his MLS career, but he's added 21 assists during his career.
Looking at advanced stats, Ashe's final pass numbers are slightly behind Waylon Francis and Harrison Afful. Both wing backs have averaged around one key pass per 90 minutes while Ashe has averaged .7 key passes per 90. This is better than other players on the market like the recently traded Steven Beitashour.
Defensively, Ashe is a step down from either Francis or Afful. His tackles, interceptions, clearances, and blocks as tracked by Opta are below in nearly every category over the two starters. Ashe is a like for like replacement for the two incumbents. An excellent option if either are unavailable.
The most important detail to assess the deal was left out as the contract terms were not disclosed per league policy. As a depth signing, Ashe is a great cover option for either fullback if the signing doesn't break the salary budget. He was guaranteed $189,750 in 2015, an amount more than Francis was guaranteed. The signing makes sense if Ashe took a pay cut to come to Columbus.
Ashe talked about the style of play being a key reason to join Crew SC in an interview with ColumbusCrewSC.com. He fits the mold on the field. It will bear watching how his contract fits within the team's structure.