"Nicolai is a young, talented defender that brings a significant amount of experience from the topflight in Norway," head coach and sporting direction Gregg Berhalter said in the club’s press release. "We believe he can make an immediate impact for the club and we look forward to integrating him into our system."
Næss began his career with Vålerenga of Tippeligaen, Norway’s top professional soccer league. He made his debut for the club on March 31, 2012, making five appearances.
Following the 2013 season, Næss moved to Stabæk, helping the club earn promotion from the Norwegian First Division back to the Tippeligaen with 24 total appearances (12 starts). Næss helped Stabæk reach the Norwegian Cup semifinals in both 2014 and 2015. After a third place finish in Tippeligaen in 2015, Stabæk qualified for the Europa League qualifying round where the defefnder started in both matches of a two-legged series against Welsh side Connah's Quay Nomads.
During his three years with the club, Næss made 86 total appearances, including two Europa League qualification matches, scoring two goals.
The Black & Gold have dealt with injuries on the back line this season, particularly in the center of defense. Argentinian defender Gaston Sauro missed three games in April while dealing with a hamstring injury and then required surgery on a torn PCL in his left knee that will likely keep him out until September.
Reserve veteran defender Tyson Wahl has also spent time on the sideline this year dealing with concussion issues and was suspended for a red card two weeks ago against the New England Revolution, leaving Crew SC thin in the middle of the defense.
Listed as 6 feet tall, Næss is built in a similar fashion to current Black & Gold defender Michael Parkhurst. At 32-years old Parkhurst is on the decline of his career and this move may be to provide depth behind the club’s captain who is in the final year of his contract with Columbus.
Per the Crew SC press release, "Targeted Allocation Money was used to acquire Naess, who will be added to Crew SC's active roster following receipt of his International Transfer Certificate and P-1 Visa. Naess will occupy an international roster slot as a Discovery Signing for the Black & Gold."
This signing is the first of the summer transfer window for Crew SC, who currently sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, but will likely not be the last.
Expect more activity during this transfer window. #crewsc— Anthony Precourt (@APrecourt) July 21, 2016
Columbus have the means and space to bring in more players after acquiring financial assets earlier in the season via the trade of Kei Kamara. The summer transfer window closes Aug. 3, meaning there is still just under two weeks for the club to make more moves.