In yet another move in a busy week for Columbus Crew SC, the club announced on Wednesday afternoon that center back Lalas Abubakar is going on a season-long loan to Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids. In exchange for the defender, the Black & Gold receive $125,000 in Target Allocation Money in return.
“We believe that this MLS season-long loan will give Lalas the opportunity to gain valuable minutes,” Crew President Tim Bezbatchenko said in the press release. “The Targeted Allocation Money we have received in exchange will benefit us as we continue to shape our roster.”
Abubakar was selected fifth overall by the Crew in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. In his rookie season, the defender made seven appearances, six starts, and scored one goal. Abubakar’s second campaign with Columbus saw him feature more regularly under then-head coach Gregg Berhalter. The Ghanian played in 23 games in 2018, starting 20, while scoring his second professional goal.
So far this season, Abubakar has largely been relegated to a reserve role under new head coach Caleb Porter, who has mostly stuck with veteran center backs Josh Williams or Gaston Sauro alongside Jonathan Mensah. Abubakar’s only game with the club in 2019 came in the 2-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo on April 27, the third game in an eight-day stretch for the Crew.
Even with Abubakar’s departure, the Crew has a number of options at center back. The Black & Gold still have Jonathan, Sauro, Williams and third-year Homegrown player Alex Crognale, who returned from a loan with Indy 11 this week, on the roster and available for selection.
Abubakar now heads to a Rapids team that has the worst defense in MLS, already allowing 27 goals through 10 matches in 2019. Colorado has played a rotating cast of players at center back so far this year, switching between a five- or three-man backline to four in the back at times. None have worked. Abubakar will contend with Keegan Rosenberry, Axel Sjoberg, Deklan Wynne and others for one of the center back roles with the Rapids.
Ideally, Abubakar will work his way into the Colorado lineup and get regular MLS minutes he would not receive with Columbus. The defender can then return to the Crew following the 2019 season with more experience, in order to help the Black & Gold backline in the future.