Columbus Crew SC is likely set at the center back position heading to the 2020 Major League Soccer season after the Black & Gold announced the signing of 31-year-old Dutch veteran Vito Wormgoor on Wednesday.
After the club kept Jonathan Mensah, Josh Williams and Aboubacar Keita and acquired Axel Sjoberg, the Black & Gold looked to Europe to add what’s likely the last piece of the defensive puzzle head coach Caleb Porter will have to work with next season.
The Crew has traditionally scouted on European soil when the team looked for the center backs and even though the recent results have been mixed, with solid signings such as Danish defender Nicolai Naess and massive busts like Austrian Emmanuel Pogatetz, at a first glance it’s safe to say Wormgoor is most likely to fall into the first category.
His résumé indicates a promising career start, with stints at the Academy of Dutch giants Ajax and call ups to the country’s Under-20 and Under-21 national teams, followed by a more common trajectory, which saw him feature in three mid-sized Dutch teams (FC Utrecht, De Graafschap and ADO Den Haag) and move to a lower-caliber Norwegian league, where he played for Aalesunds Fotballklubb and SK Brann.
Something that was on display is each of the teams he played for were his leadership skills. A vocal defender, Wormgoor worn the captain’s armband during all his three seasons with Brann.
“Vito is a leader. I think that’s the first thing we noticed, is that he has a presence about him that commands respect and attention,” Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in the club’s press release announcing the signing. “He’s a winner. He’s been the captain of his teams. He’s won titles. He’s played in multiple countries. He’s played in different competitions. But first and foremost is the fact that he’s a leader and he knows how to lead a group of players.”
The first thing anyone notices about Wormgoor, though, in undoubtedly his size. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 179 pounds, the Dutchman certainly looks even larger on video. The tattooed left arm and the Mohawk haircut add up to what is expected to be an intimidating presence to opposing forwards.
And his play lives uo to the expectations in that regard, no question.
In addition to playing hard, Wormgoor seems to have nearly perfect timing and reading of the game as his stats indicate he is a pretty clean tackler, having averaged just 1.2 fouls per match and was sent off just once in over 100 games during the last five seasons according to WhoScored.com.
His defensive game relies on both his physical strength and his positioning as the center back’s stats that stand out the most are his clearances per game (5.4) and interceptions per contest (two). Both numbers, if transitioned to MLS, would have put him at the top of the Crew’s roster in both categories in the 2019 season.
Finally, even though Wormgoor mentioned in his first interview that attacking is not his specialty, he has proven he can help on offense too. The 6-foot-2 center back scored 11 goals and registered four assists in his three seasons with Brann, including a career-high five during the 2019 season, when he was the team’s second-best scorer. Most of those goals came in the air, but the Dutchman has also scored on penalty kicks.
He’s proven to be a capable passer too, averaging a respectable 82.6 percent efficiency when moving the ball over the last five seasons. This video shows he’s not shy to try and connect long passes and that he can link up with teammates at a pretty decent rate too.
Only time will tell if Wormgoor will end up being a good signing for the Crew, but the first indications are certainly positive.