Columbus Crew SC completed a trade on Wednesday to send center back Lalas Abubakar to the Colorado Rapids. In return for Abubakar, the Crew received $400,000 in 2020 General Allocation Money and a 2020 international roster spot.
“We believe that this transaction puts us in a position to build and strengthen our roster for the 2020 MLS season,” Crew President and General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko said. “We want to thank Lalas for his contributions to Columbus Crew SC during his three seasons with the Club and we wish him the best in the next stage of his career.”
Abubakar was selected in the first round, fifth overall, in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft out of the University of Dayton where he was the Atlantic 10 Conference Defender of the Year, second-team NSCAA All-Midwest Region, first-team Atlantic 10 All-Conference twice, the Dayton Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-Ohio.
As a rookie under former Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter, Abubakar made seven appearances, six starts, in the regular season as well as four postseason appearances, one start. The defender scored his first goal for the Black & Gold on Aug. 19, 2017, in just his fifth career start against Orlando City SC.
In 2018, Abubakar saw his playing time increase drastically. The defender featured in 23 games for the Crew, making 20 starts, and scored his second MLS goal. He also played three minutes off the bench in Columbus’ 1-0 win against the New York Red Bulls in the MLS Cup playoffs.
Abubakar’s lone game for the Crew last year under new head coach Caleb Porter came on April 27 in a 2-0 loss at the Houston Dynamo. In early May, the Ghanian was sent on a season-long loan to the Colorado Rapids. He quickly made his first appearance for the Rapids, starting in the team’s 3-2 loss to Real Salt Lake on May 11.
When Abubakar joined Colorado, the team sat at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. With Abubakar in the lineup, the Rapids went 10-7-4 and climbed to a ninth place finish in the West, just six points out of a playoff position.
For the Crew, this move makes sense. Abubakar was a player who was not in the team’s plans last year and would have had a battle for playing time behind Jonathan Mensah, Josh Williams and potentially an additional center back added this offseason. Columbus now gets allocation money and a valuable international roster spot to continue to address the 2020 roster. The move is made easier by the emergence of Homegrown center back Aboubacar Keita, who played in 10 games, making eight starts, for the Black & Gold in 2019.
From a Rapids perspective, Abubakar is a key full-time addition after immediately stepping in and making an impact in Colorado last year on loan. In the 22 games that Abubakar played for the Rapids, the team gave up 35 goals with five shutouts.