After the departure of forward Ola Kamara, the team’s top goal scorer the past two seasons, Columbus Crew SC fans expected the front office to scoop the market and sign a replacement for the Norwegian. Massive Report has even suggested a few names to be considered by the Black & Gold, but that may not occur.
When talking to the media on Saturday about the Kamara’s trade, head coach Gregg Berhalter revealed that the team will try to add another attacking option to the roster, but also made clear that Gyasi Zardes, acquired from the LA Galaxy in the deal, is definitely an alternative to fill the void opened by Kamara’s absence.
“We think Gyasi has the potential to be an elite striker in this league,” he said. “We’re more than comfortable going into the season with him as the number one striker. That’s not to say that we’re not going to add attacking players to our roster, that is a possibility.”
NEWS | #CrewSC acquires @MLS Cup champion & @ussoccer_mnt international @gyasinho & up to $500,000 Targeted Allocation Money in trade with @LAGalaxy.— Columbus Crew SC (@ColumbusCrewSC) January 20, 2018
A quick comparison between Kamara and Zardes’ numbers in MLS would probably put Crew SC fans on alert as the recently-signed forward took 131 regular season matches to score 34 goals, the same amount the Norwegian achieved in only 59 games.
The Black & Gold, however, have proven to be among the best in MLS when it comes to creating goal scoring opportunities for their strikers, recently with Kei Kamara scoring 22 goals in 2015 and Ola registering 18 and 16 respectively in the past two seasons.
With Zardes up top, it will be a matter of adjusting again. With Kei, Crew SC became the most effective team in the league in the air as it explored the Sierra Leone’s athletic ability on headers. With Ola, a strong one-touch finisher, plays were built with the ball on the field.
How the team’s style will change with Zardes up top is yet to be seen, but his most intriguing skill around the box is definitely his speed and Berhalter has probably an idea or two about how to make the most of it.
To the head coach, time will tell what will be the best way to turn the versatile United States Men’s National Team forward in a prolific scorer, but the excitement ahead of the task is real.
“That’s going to be determined when we work with Gyasi”, Berhalter said when asked about his impact on the team’s system. “We know he has a diverse skillset. We know he’s proven in the international level both scoring goals and performing well and we are going to work with him and we are going to work with the team to maximize his skill set. We see him as a guy who has the ability to score goals and we are excited to work with him.”
Zardes, who is currently training with the USMNT in California in the January camp alongside Crew SC’s goalkeeper Zack Steffen and team captain Wil Trapp, said his first words as a Columbus player on Sunday in a video released by the club.
The 26-year-old forward, who has played striker, right and left winger and even right fullback during his five years with the Galaxy, is optimistic about his move to Columbus and anxious for a fresh start on his career.
“Just to be in a new environment, it’s a fresh start and I’m excited to start working,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for me to grow as a person and as a player. I know a couple of players on the team and they have always been strong, a strong team to compete against so, I’m really excited to be a part of this strong team now. It’s a great opportunity and I’ve only heard positive things about Columbus.”
Crew SC officially starts its preseason Wednesday, Jan. 24 with the team training at SuperKick in Lewis Center, Ohio for two days before it heads to Casa Grande, Arizona. The first opportunity to see what the Black & Gold will look like in 2018 will be on Feb. 8, when the Black & Gold debuts in the Pacific Rim Cup, in Hawaii, against Japan's Consadole Sapporo.