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Columbus Crew SC mid-season progress reports: Strikers

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Their job is to score goals, but how to do the forwards grade out?

MLS: Portland Timbers at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

In this version of progress reports, we take a look at the Columbus Crew SC strikers after grading the goalkeeper, defenders and midfielders previously.

Mostly playing in a 1-striker formation, Crew SC only have two out-and-out strikers on the roster, and one striker/winger who has played mostly as a sub. Let’s take a look at the strikers and see how they stack up.

Ola Kamara

MLS: Montreal Impact at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

After an impressive 2016 in which Kamara finished tied for fifth in MLS goals (16), just one behind third place, fans had high hopes for the Norwegian striker heading into the 2017 season.

For the most part Kamara has a very good season, scoring a team-leading nine goals (tied with Federico Higuain). Currently Kamara is tied with Higuain and Sebatian Giovinco at ninth in MLS in goals.

Despite Kamara scoring less efficiently than a year ago — 0.53 goals per 96 minutes in 2017 compared to 0.83 goals per 96 minutes in 2016) Crew SC have 28 points through 20 games and are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Columbus only had 19 points through 20 games last season.

The biggest complaint that can be made against Kamara is his finishing ability. While the Crew SC striker has scored multiple goals with a high degree of difficulty, he also has seemingly missed multiple easy goals. However, his xG total (7.51) suggests that Kamara is actually finishing at a relatively high rate.

With a healthy Higuain and an in-form Justin Meram, Kamara has had to score fewer goals than in 2016, and has already topped last season’s assist total with three assists this year. Interestingly, Kamara has scored in almost as many individual matches (nine) in 2017 as he did in 25 games in 2016 (11). However, the Columbus striker has had no multi-goal games in this season.

The strongest aspect of Kamara’s game has always been his movement off the ball, and so far that movement has remained sharp. It seems like the striker always pops up in the right place at the right time.

Overall, Kamara has had a very good MLS season. He may not have totally met expectations, but he’s shown flashes of what make him one of the best forwards in MLS.

Grade: B+


Adam Jahn

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Columbus Crew SC at FC Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Crew SC acquired Adam Jahn in the second half of the 2016 season, and Jahn went on to defy expectations by scoring five goals in his 12 matches (four starts). During that last season, Jahn looked to be an aerial threat that could thrive in the Berhalter system.

However, in 2017 Jahn has showed none of the promise that lead Columbus to re-sign him after the conclusion of his half season in black and gold. Jahn’s stats paint this picture well enough: 0 goals and 1 assist. With an xG of 0.56, it is clear that Jahn isn’t unlucky, he is just not playing very well.

For much of this year, Jahn has looked like the least MLS-ready player on the Crew SC roster. Jahn’s performance so far has demonstrated the need for an improved backup striker on this team.

Grade: D


Kekuta Manneh

MLS: Montreal Impact at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus acquired Manneh on March 30, 2017 to much surprise and excitement from fans of the Black & Gold faithful.

Manneh, who is only 22-years-old, set the MLS on fire during his first few seasons in Vancouver. A few injury-shortened seasons later and the shine on Manneh’s star wore off enough for Vancouver to be willing to trade the Gambian-American to Crew SC for Tony Tchani.

What Columbus have in Manneh is an exciting prospect who has not yet reached the next level. Surprisingly, Manneh has never scored more than seve goals in an MLS season with his best coming in 2015 with seven goals and six assists.

So far, Crew SC have gotten the exact Manneh who we have seen during his time in MLS with brief flashes of brilliance, mixed with long stretches of vanishing during games. In his limited playing time, 353 minutes, Manneh has managed two goals and one assist. He has scored about 0.54 goals per 96 minutes which is just slightly better than Kamara.

Though the expectations for Manneh are incredibly high, he is still just 22. If Crew SC are able to continue get 0.54 goals per 96 minutes from Manneh for an entire season, his signing will have been a success. While Manneh may not have met the fans’ high expectations, he has shown flashes of what make him such an interesting figure for Columbus.

Grade: B-