In mid-April, head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter made it clear that Crew SC wants to add another attacking piece. The question now, is when?
With the transfer window coming to a close on Tuesday night, Berhalter was asked if the team might make a move in the next several hours.
“I don’t know,” he began. “If there’s opportunities that we like, we’ll make a move. If there’s nothing that we like, we won’t make a move. We’re always looking to make our team stronger, we’re always looking to make our team better. There’s a couple of pieces within the league that we’ve identified that could help us and if we can make it happen, we will. If not we’ll wait.”
This might be a frustrating answer to Crew SC fans, many of which are asking what happened to all of the allocation money received this offseason.
The Black & Gold traded Ola Kamara to the LA Galaxy in January for Gyasi Zardes and $400,000 in allocation money. Two weeks later, Columbus traded Justin Meram to Orlando City SC for $1.05 million in allocation money plus an international roster spot.
But Crew SC also had to spend allocation money to acquire Artur in December and likely Eduardo Sosa and Milton Valenzuela in January. The club also has allocation money in use to buy down the contracts of Zardes, Wil Trapp and Jonathan Mensah.
There’s also the issue of finding the right player, and not just making an addition for the sake of making an addition.
Berhalter wants to make sure the Black & Gold add a piece that fits into the team’s playing style. Finding a winger who isn’t good in possession, or a forward who isn’t able to get into good positions and finish, really doesn’t help Columbus.
While it is possible that Crew SC makes a move before the 11:59 p.m. May 1 deadline, I would call it unlikely for this window, giving the staff more time to evaluate the new players — specifically the recently returned Mike Grella — and decide where best the funds should be used.
Speaking of some additions, Crew SC got one in a way on Tuesday when center back Alex Crognale rejoined the group.
Crognale joined Orange County SC on loan in mid-March. In the last month and a half, the defender made eight appearances, seven starts and scored one goal for Orange County.
But with a stretch of three games in eight days upcoming next week, Berhalter wanted some additional reinforcements.
“We’ll get bodies in here,” he responded when asked about Crognale’s return. “Hopefully he can contribute in some way. But I think it’s important to consolidate the group and get everyone ready.”
The Black & Gold have been steady defensively this year, allowing only 10 goals in nine games. The center back position has been occupied by Jonathan in one spot and either Lalas Abubakar or Josh Williams in the other.
“I told the guys this morning it’s going to be a big week for us,” he said. “A tough Western Conference opponent away and then two Eastern Conference opponents at home. So it’s going to be a huge week. We need the whole group.”
As for what happens after next week for Crognale — will he return to Orange County or stay with Crew SC — Berhalter said the club will determine that after the three-game stretch.