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Crew signs Aboubacar Keita to Homegrown contract

The Black & Gold add the U-20 defender to the roster.

MLS: Columbus Crew-Press Conference Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The evolution of Columbus Crew SC’s roster continues to evolve under the direction of new head coach Caleb Porter and team president Tim Bezbatchenko. Under the fresh ownership group of former team doctor Pete Edwards and Cleveland Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, Porter and Bezbatchenko are building their 2019 roster. That roster is set to grow by one.

Originally reported by Ives Galarcep, Massive Report has learned that the Black & Gold have signed defender Aboubacar Keita to a Major League Soccer Homegrown contract. The signing of Keita, Massive Reported is told, will be announced by the club as early as Tuesday.

Keita, a 6-foot-2 central defender who grew up in Columbus, was developed by the Crew Academy. The Westerville North High School product spent a large amount of the 2018 season training with the Crew, including taking part in the team’s preseason, while also competing in friendlies for the team throughout the year. While still in high school, Keita featured in a number of scrimmages for the Black & Gold against college programs, regularly holding his own.

Following high school, Keita played soccer for one year at the University of Virginia. The defender started all 17 games for the Cavaliers, who went 10-4-3 and allowed just 12 goals, making it to the third round of the NCAA Tournament before eventually losing to Notre Dame 1-0 in overtime. Keita scored one goal on three shots in 1,599 minutes in his lone college season. The defender was named to Top Drawer Soccer’s second-team Freshman Best XI.

Youth players that have been in an MLS team’s academy for at least one year and have met the necessary training and retention requirements, can sign a professional contact as a Homegrown Player, allowing the team to acquire the player without him going through the SuperDraft. Homegrown players do not counted against the team’s salary cap until they occupy a spot on the team’s senior roster. Keita will be the third Homegrown player current on the Crew roster along with captain Wil Trapp and fellow defender Alex Crognale.

Keita has not only impressed on the academy and college level but has also worked his way on to the U.S. Youth National Team Under-20 radar before this summer’s U-20 World Cup in Poland. Keita was added to the January camp for players who didn’t feature in the CONCACAF Championships with an eye on making his way onto the World Cup squad.

In Ketia, Columbus adds another big-bodied, athletic defender. The current Black & Gold roster features five central defenders in Jonathan Mensah, Josh Williams, Lalas Abubakar, Crognale and Gaston Sauro. Keita will quickly be thrown in with a group of defenders he is familiar with but, unlike last season, now can compete for playing time.

With Keita on the roster, the Crew is set to officially begin the 2019 preseason on Wednesday, Jan. 23 in Columbus. The team will then travel to Chula Vista, California for preseason camp. The Black & Gold will remain in California until Feb. 6 before returning to Columbus until Feb. 12 when the team departs for Charleston, South Carolina to participate in the 2019 Carolina Challenge Cup.