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What Columbus Crew SC can do with the No. 1 allocation spot

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As the transfer window opens, the Black & Gold have several options if they want to use their priority.

MLS: Sporting KC at Orlando City SC Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Soccer’s transfer window is officially open and Columbus Crew SC has a valuable asset to strengthen its roster in the No. 1 position in the allocation order.

Because of the, the Black & Gold have priority over any other club in the league to sign a restricted group of players composed by Senior and Youth U.S. internationals and players who were sold outside of the League for a transfer fee of at least $500,000.

Three MLS teams already took advantage of having the first spot on the allocation ranking this season and did so in different ways. While Atlanta United signed U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan and the Vancouver Whitecaps added a Designated Player in Freddy Montero, D.C. United acquired low-profile striker Deshorn Brown from the USL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies.

The list still has some well-known players, but also others who are not as popular:

Juan Anagono – F – LDU Quito (ECU)

Geoff Cameron – D – Stoke City (ENG)

Fabian Castillo – F – Trabzonspor (TUR)

Junior Flores – M – Borussia Dortmund (GER)

Giancarlo Gonzalez – D – Palermo (ITA)

Omar Gonzalez – D – Pachuca (MEX)

Julian Green – M – VfB Sttutgart (ALE)

Doneil Henry – D – West Ham (ENG)

Aron Johansson – F – Werder Bremen (GER)

Fabian Johnson – M - Borussia Monchengladbach (GER)

Obafemi Martins – F – Shangai Shenua (CHN)

Matt Miazga – D – Chelsea (ENG)

Andy Najar – M – Anderlecht (BEL)

Krisztian Nemeth – M – Al-Gharafa (QAR)

Kwadwo Poku – M – Miami FC (NASL)

Christian Pulisic – M – Borussia Dortmund (GER)

Tim Ream – D – Fulham (ENG)

Octavio Rivero – F – Colo Colo (CHI)

Alain Rochat – D - BSC Young Boys (SWI)

Oriol Rosell – M – Sporting (POR)

Rubio Rubin – F – Free agent

Richard Sanchez – G – Tigres (MEX)

Camilo Sanvezzo – M – Queretaro (MEX)

Jose Adolfo Valencia – F – Santa Fe (COL)

Jorge Villafana – D – Santos Laguna (MEX)

DeAndre Yedlin – D – Newcastle (ENG)

When trying to foresee how Crew SC could possibly use its No. 1 spot, the first thing to do is to remove Pulisich, Johnson, Yedlin, Cameron and Green from the list since they are out of the club’s range. Ream, Johanson, Martins and Miazga are also long shots. With that said, we can see clearly see three paths the club could follow if it was to sign a player from this list:

Young Talent

Some youth U.S. internationals are part of the list and they are probably the easiest players to obtain. Forward Rubio Rubin and midfielder Junior Flores, both 21, are the most interesting options.

Rubin is currently a free agent after a stint with Danish side Silkeborg, where he played in only three matches. He played in the Netherlands for three years before that, also without success. His numbers for the U.S. U-17, U-20 and U-23 are much better, though, with 20 goals scored over 55 matches. Considering Adam Jahn’s low efficiency, betting on a young forward as a backup for Ola Kamara could make sense for Crew SC.

Flores is part of Borussia Dortmund’s roster since 2013. At the time he moved overseas, he was pursued by Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool as well. He never succeeded in Europe, though, being relegated to Dortmund’s II team, where he only dressed for 15 games over three years. A key player for the U.S. U-17 team from 2011 to 2013, Flores could work as an insurance plan for Federico Higuain and hopefully become a role player for years to come.

National Team Talent

From the national team players included in the list, Omar Gonzalez and Jorge Villafana, both playing in Mexico, seem the only realistic options, even though neither of them would be actually easy to acquire.

Gonzalez was rumored to Crew SC about eight months ago, but is having a good season in Pachuca now as he led the team to the Mexican title. Also, he would certainly demand a Designated Player contract and, as Crew SC already has Jonathan Mensah as a DP center back, it’s hard to imagine the team would spend two of its three slots on defenders.

Villafana would definitely be an upgrade over current left back options Waylon Francis and Jukka Raitala, even though the position is not a priority to the Black & Gold now. Recently called up to the national team, he could see a return to MLS after 18 months with Santos Laguna as a way to solidify his spot on the roster to next year’s World Cup.

International Talent

Some international players who left MLS in the past are also obtainable through the allocation order. Krisztian Nemeth and Kwadwo Poku are probably the best options available.

Nemeth had a good stint with Sporting Kansas City and is reportedly interested in returning to the league after playing in Qatar. His talent would definitely be welcomed in Columbus, but his natural role is the left winger position, the same spot Justin Meram plays, and that could make the deal a little bit less likely.

Poku, a former New York City FC midfielder, is enjoying some success with NASL’s Miami FC, but could be tempted to return and prove his value in MLS. The Ghanaian would be a force coming off the bench for Crew SC and could become a valuable asset for the team if signed.

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Regardless of which way Columbus choses to follow, the club should find a way to use its allocation spot as the ranking will be organized by the end of the year. It the Black & Gold decide not to sign a player with it, the team should engage in trade talks to get something in return for the spot in the market.