Columbus Crew SC continued its offseason transition on Wednesday when the club announced the signing of veteran defender Axel Sjoberg. The Swedish center back has five years of Major League Soccer experience but was waived by the Colorado Rapids in November.
“We are pleased to welcome Axel Sjoberg to Columbus Crew SC,” Crew President and General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in the press release. “Axel is a defender whose significant experience in MLS makes him a valuable addition to our roster. We look forward to incorporating him into the team and are excited to begin working with him.”
Sjoberg, 28, was selected in the first round, 14th overall, of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft by the Rapids after Colorado swapped picks with the Crew. The defender made 14 appearances, all starts, as a rookie in 2015.
The towering 6-foot-7 center back played his best season in MLS in 2016 when he was a member of the MLS Best XI and was finalist for League Defender of the Year. He made 31 starts, scoring two goals and added an assist as the Rapids tallied 58 points and had the second-best record in the League. With Sjoberg helping to anchor the defense, Colorado allowed a league-low 32 goals and was also best in shutouts (13) and managed the lowest goals against average (0.94).
Sjoberg battled an early-season hamstring injury in 2017 and saw his playing time with the Rapids dip to 19 appearances, all starts. He shuffled in and out of head coach Anthony Hudson’s lineup in 2018 before falling out of favor this past season, playing a career low seven games, five starts.
Prior to joining Colorado, Sjoberg played for Sollentuna United FF of Sweden’s Division 2 during the 2010 season, making 20 appearances and scoring three goals. He helped the club finish in second place and advance to the Svenska Cupen. Sjoberg was named Sollentuna United’s Player of the Year that season.
At the college level, Sjoberg played at Marquette University from 2011-14, making 63 appearances, all starts, and scoring 11 goals and registering nine assists. During his time as a Golden Eagle, Sjoberg was named Marquette’s Most Valuable Player Award (2013, 2014), the Big East Men’s Soccer Championship Most Outstanding Defensive Player (2013) and was named first-team All-Big East (2013, 2014), second-team All-American (2013) and to the Big East Men’s Soccer Championship All-Tournament Team (2013).
Coming to the Crew, Sjoberg brings physicality and will challenge for playing time on a Crew defense thinned after the trade of Lalas Abubakar — who went to the Rapids after being on loan last year — and the departure of Alex Crognale. He will compete with fellow veterans Jonathan Mensah and Josh Williams, as well as second-year Homegrown center back Aboubacar Keita.
According to the MLS Players’ Association numbers, Sjoberg made an annual salary of $179,996.00, making him a relatively inexpensive addition. The defender obtained his Green Card in 2017 and therefore will not take up an international spot on the Crew’s roster.