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The Reason Behind Columbus Crew SC’s Trade for Adam Jahn

What did the Black & Gold get by acquiring the former San Jose forward?

Since the trade of Kei Kamara to the New England Revolution on May 12, Ola Kamara has played all but 71 minutes — coming off the bench in one game due to a hamstring injury — for Columbus Crew SC.

The striker has started and completed 10 matches, including three-straight 90 minute performances in a week’s time. It’s not that Kamara isn’t having success — his 10 goals in those 10 starts proves that — but he’s due for a break.

"Right now, we’re solely relying on Ola for the shift every week whether we have three games, two games, no matter what and you can’t sustain that," head coach Gregg Berhalter said on Saturday before the team left for the airport for a date with Toronto FC.

With Kei gone and veteran forward Conor Casey still out with a lingering knee issue, Berhalter had nowhere to turn. In the one match Kamara could not start, a 0-0 draw with the Montreal Impact, the coach went to college-forward-turned-winger Ethan Finlay as his striker option.

That did not work.

Saturday’s trade with the San Jose Earthquakes for forward Adam Jahn may not excited fans, Jahn has just six goals in 62 career MLS appearances, but it serves a purpose. For one, it allows Kamara to get rest when needed.

On top of that, it gives Crew SC a new dynamic coming off the bench, something the team hasn’t had since the departure of Aaron Schoenfeld following the 2014 season.

"There’s similarities there," Berhalter said of the comparison between the two 6-foot-3ish, 200-plus pound players. "Whereas Aaron may be a little more mobile, Adam may be a little bit better holding the ball up and give you more of that battling with defenders, which Aaron gave you as well but slightly different. Similar profile.

"He’s a guy that we express will give us physical presence, extremely high work rate and will be valuable both in-game situations and as a starter when we need to use a rotation."

While Jahn does not know Schoenfeld personally, he knows of the former Black & Gold forward’s game and describes himself in similar fashion.

"I think my play is big presence up top, hold the ball and give it to Higuain and all the playmakers," Jahn said after being introduced to the media. "I take pride in being able to do that. Being a starter or coming in as a sub just giving the center-backs trouble and making stuff happen in the box."

Jahn discussed the Columbus offense and likes what he’s seen. He knows it’s a dangerous team going forward and he’s seen the success a target forward, Kei Kamara for example, can have in this system.

Not only is this addition about scoring goals, but also defending. The Black & Gold have been one of the worst teams in the league at holding on to a lead, going 2-2-6 this season when scoring first.

Berhalter has looked at several reasons for this issue, but pointed no like-for-like replacement for Kamara who can give Crew SC a fresh presence up top, not to mention a big player to help defend when needed.

Jahn is comfortable filling that criteria.

"This year in San Jose, that’s been my main role," he said. "Coming off [the bench] and holding on to leads or being tough defensively. So I’m used to it. It’s normal to me and I hope I can go in and help tomorrow."

While Jahn couldn’t say for sure that he would be in the 18-man roster for Sunday’s match with TFC, it would be a surprise to see him left out given his day of training with Columbus and the desperate need for forward help.

As for his lack of goal production over the course of his young career, Berhalter isn’t so much focused on that. He has a proven starter who can score goals and wanted a player who could fit a need.

"It’s the physical presence," Berhalter said of what he liked from Jahn. "Speaking to defenders and people around the league, he’s a handful to play again. He always gives the defense a hard time and sometimes you need a player that can occupy one or two players to make space for other people."

The head coach also made it clear that the trade made sense for Crew SC, stating the club didn’t have to give up much and still has room to make another move before the transfer window closes Aug. 3.

So who’s the one man you haven’t heard from in all this? Ola Kamara. I asked MLS’ best goal scorer over the last 11 game about the chance to take a break from consistent 90 minute performances and his response was exactly what you’d expect out of a forward on a hot streak.

"For me, I just want to play at all times," he said with a smile.

"I just want to play."