With the MLS transfer window opening today, many Columbus Crew SC fans are hoping to see their team sign that player who will help the Black & Gold step up to the next level. Rumors have linked Crew SC with young Venezuelan winger/striker Jhon Murillo, whetting the appetite for speculation and actual signings.
On the opening day of the summer window, here is my Columbus transfer wish list.
Aside from Ola Kamara, the Black & Gold lack striking options. Adam Jahn has yet to find the form that he displayed in late 2016 and has highlighted how difficult the situation would be without Kamara.
Crew SC are likely not in the hunt for a Designated Player-level striker, but do need someone to lighten Kamara’s load, provide an attacking spark off the bench, and pair with the forward should head coach Gregg Berhalter decide to go with two strikers.
Keeping in mind, Columbus should look for a young forward who could potentially be a replacement if Kamara is sold (don’t forget the Aston Villa rumors from earlier in the year that were shot down by owner Anthony Precourt) or a veteran striker who still has something to prove but doesn’t mind coming off the bench.
Young striker/future replacement for Kamara - Rubio Rubin
Rubio Rubin is a 21-year-old American striker who last played for Silkeborg in the Danish Superliga. While playing for FC Utrecht in the Netherlands’ Eredevise, Rubin was one of the most exciting forward prospects in the U.S. National Team system and, under Jurgen Klinsmann, Rubin won four caps for the full USMNT.
Two injuries later, Rubin finds himself as a free agent at only 21. The forward is on the MLS Allocation List, and would be required to go through this process if he were to sign in the league. Luckily, Columbus is first in the current MLS Allocation Order and Rubin would represent a low risk/high reward player with international pedigree.
In the Berhalter system, Rubin would play much in the same way as Kamara, using his passing ability to create for teammates while attempting to make smart moves to get opportunities on goal.
Veteran Striker - Nicklas Bendtner
If the Black & Gold want to go the veteran striker/(former) big name route, Nicklas Bendtner is available for the taking. After a long career with Arsenal, Bendtner has found himself in the Norweigan Tippeligaen playing for reigning champions Rosenborg BK. At Arsenal, the 6-foot-4 Bendtner played the role of a target striker, scoring aerial goals and holding up play.
In Berhalter’s system, Bendtner would be asked to do what Jahn is currently unable to do: act as a big target late in games. Though he is on the backend of his career, Bendtner is still only 29 years old and provides an incredible aerial threat that is sorely missing from Crew SC’s attack.
The biggest concern with signing an aging former English Premier League player like Bendtner is that he would likely require a TAM-level salary at a minimum (Bendtner is rumored to make £450,000, which is about $580,000) in addition to whatever transfer fee is paid.
With Ethan Finlay’s struggles to score — only one goal in 2017 — Columbus surely will have to improve the right side of the midfield if the goal is to contend for an MLS Cup.
On the opposite side of the field from in-cutting left winger Justin Meram, Berhalter’s system needs a right winger who can provide width, cut inside when the fullback overlaps, drive at defenders and recover defensively.
Nikolai Alho is a speedy, Finnish, right winger who plays for Halmstads BK in the Swedish Allsvenskan. At only 24 years old, Alho has played in nearly 100 matches as a professional and scored 13 goals. Though footage of the pacy winger is scarce, it’s clear that Alho isn’t afraid to shoot from deep (the Black & Gold currently lead MLS in goals from outside the box), and enjoys taking on defenders with his technical dribbling.
Alho plays for a newly promoted club, and may be available for a relatively small fee. WhoScored.com lists one of Alho’s weaknesses as passing, which obviously doesn’t work well in Berhalter’s system, but the need for pace on the right side of the field may be greater than the need for a right winger who passes well.
Alho would bring pace equal to Finlay’s with a much better shot and better technical ability.
Fullbacks are the linchpin of the Crew SC’s success, providing defensive cover and drastically leading in possession. Harrison Afful has mostly had a very good career in Columbus, but has shown signs of decline during this current season. The Black & Gold could be on the lookout for a versatile fullback to spell both Afful and the left backs.
Experienced US international Eric Lichaj, currently with Nottingham Forest of the English Championship, has been in England since 2007. At 28 years old, it is unlikely that Lichaj signs with a Premier League team, so he could be convinced to return to the U.S. Though Lichaj would not be an exciting, young signing, he is two years younger than Afful and could provide some much-needed stability to the Crew SC defense.
There’s my wish list for the summer transfer window. Do you have any ideas you think would make for quality players in the black and gold this season?