And just like that, the secondary transfer window in Major League Soccer is shut. The Black & Gold front office and coaching staff have had a busy summer window after reinforcing the roster with some deadline day moves at the end of the primary window.
In May, team president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko made it clear that the front office was going to make moves to mold the team into their and head coach Caleb Porter’s philosophies. As fans have seen, this team’s depth has been severely tested this season. A flurry of injuries suffered to key pieces along with international tournaments and departures has made for very tough results and a historically poor summer
With so much change to the roster over the last couple of months, it’s easy to miss something. Massive Report took a look at the additions and departures the Crew made this summer and how they might impact the team headed towards the end of the regular season and in the long-term.
Romario Williams came to Columbus after spending the past two seasons with Atlanta United. The Crew acquired him in exchange for $100,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM). The 24-year-old striker adds immediate depth to a position of need for the Black & Gold.
Williamss is a Jamaican international and has experience at the USL level with Charleston Battery, Atlanta United 2 and in MLS with Atlanta and the Montreal Impact. Despite only scoring one goal for United, his 2017 campaign with Charleston left quite the impression when he tallied 15 goals and three assists.
The forward already proved his goal-scoring abilities in Columbus, making three substitute appearances and scoring in his debut for the club against the Chicago Fire. The Crew hopes he can be the depth option that the Black & Gold have lacked for some time.
Columbus continued its strong start to the secondary window by signing Costa Rican winger Luis Diaz from Herediano on a Young Designated Player contract. The Black & Gold reportedly paid $1 million for Diaz and signed him, reportedly, to a two and a half year deal that could extend through 2023 with two team option years.
The 20 year old made an instant impact for the Crew with his first assist in his debut against the Fire. Last weekend against the San Jose Earthquakes, Diaz made his first start, played the full 90 minutes and recorded the assist on the game-tying goal.
Diaz is going to be a difference-maker for years to come in Columbus. He has certainly been impactful in the attack in his short time with the team and has shown to be a dynamic athlete who will certainly be exciting to watch as he gels more and more into Porter’s system.
Eloy Room came to the Black & Gold after an exceptional Gold Cup with Curacao this summer. His performances certainly put him on the radar for many Crew fans who were looking for the guy to replace goalkeeper Zack Steffen. Room was on the club’s radar for some time and when he was available as a free agent, Columbus jumped on the experienced keeper.
Room has tons of experience with Dutch sides such as Vitesse and PSV. He is good with his feet and has the athleticism and size to make acrobatic saves. He hit the ground running with the club and has been a crucial piece to recent results against Montreal, the New York Red Bulls and San Jose.
As he grows his relationship with the club and his teammate, Room is expected to only improve and be the reliable and stable goalkeeper that Crew fans were used to with Steffen.
In another move to strengthen the striker position, the Black & Gold acquired Jordan Hamilton in a trade that included Columbus sending Patrick Mullins to Toronto FC. In addition to the striker, the Crew also acquired a 2019 international slot, $50,000 in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) and the right of first refusal for an unnamed player.
Hamilton is an academy product of Toronto and it was certainly an emotional move for him from the club. Despite not making an appearance for the Black & Gold yet, Hamilton has shown the ability to impact the game as a substitute during his time with TFC, tallying 11 goals and three assists in 53 matches for the club.
The changes continued for the Crew with the signing of Moroccan winger Youness Mokhtar. The 27 year old has spent most of his career in Europe, with stops in the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Upon his signing, Bezbatchenko described Mokhtar as a dynamic and creative player who can add variety to the Crew attack.
So far, Columbus has yet to see Mokhtar as he waited for his visa paperwork to come through but his 28 goals and 31 assists throughout his career show that he has the ability the Black & Gold hoped for in the signing. A player that likes to tuck inside and isn’t afraid to shoot, in a similar mold to Justin Meram, Mokhtar will contend for one winger spot once he is fit.
This move is one for the future. The Crew announced the signing of defender Chris Cadden from Motherwell FC of the Scottish Premiership. Cadden was immediately sent on loan to Oxford United where he will gain valuable experience before arriving in Columbus for the 2020 season.
Cadden was in the starting lineup and played the full 90 at right back for Oxford United in their League One opener versus Sunderland. If he continues to get regular minutes, Columbus may have just found a replacement for an aging Harrison Afful.
Zack Steffen’s departure is one that Crew fans were dreading since his move to Manchester City was announced late last year. Steffen played his final match for the club in mid-June and went on to have a solid Gold Cup campaign with the U.S. Men’s National Team.
He is now on loan at Dusseldorf where he is battling to be the starter for the upcoming Bundesliga campaign. His absence was certainly felt until the club signed Room.
Despite being a new signing, Robinho just couldn’t quite produce in the opportunities he was given for the Black & Gold. Columbus made it official early into the secondary window by trading the Brazilian winger to Orlando City for a deal that can reach $150,000 in TAM.
In the end, this could be a win-win for both the club and player. From a productivity standpoint, Robinho just simply didn’t cut it and the funds acquired for him allow the Crew to move on and the player to get a new opportunity.
Patricl Mullins was part of the Jordan Hamilton trade with Toronto FC. Much like Robinho, Mullins failed to capitalize on the opportunities he was given. In Zardes’ absence, Mullins did not score goals or create many opportunities and therefore it was time for the club to move on and give him a change of scenery.
Joe Bendik was traded to Philadelphia Union in exchange for a 2019 MLS SuperDraft second-round pick and a possible $50,000 in GAM for the 2020 season. Bendik’s 12 goals allowed in six appearances just wasn’t good enough for the veteran goalkeeper to remain with the club after the arrival of Room.
Gaston Sauro departs to Toluca FC of Liga MX for an undisclosed fee. The Argentinian defender was a beloved member of the club in his five seasons. He has had to battle the adversity of a severe knee injury and with his contract ending at the end of this season, the club and player decided to move on.
Sauro made 39 regular season appearances with Columbus and certainly made an impact on and off the pitch. The Crew has a deep center back group though and will be able to continue to perform well despite Sauro’s departure.
In the final move of the window, winger Niko Hansen was traded to Houston Dynamo in exchange for $75,000 in TAM. Hansen was selected by the club in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft and had an impressive rookie campaign. He followed it up with a strong 2018, making 22 total appearances.
In the 2019 season, Hansen struggled to settle in under Porter and made only two starts in nine appearances. The arrival of Diaz and Mokhtar, along with the great form of Luis Argudo, simply didn’t leave much playing time for Hansen in Columbus.
The Crew also made three transactions involving just allocation money during the summer window. The Black & Gold netted $25,000 in TAM and $60,000 GAM. On July 18, Columbus sent $150k of TAM to San Jose for $110k in GAM. Four days later, the team traded the number one spot in the waiver draft to Chicago for $50k in TAM. On Aug. 8, the Crew sent $50k in TAM to D.C. United for $50k in GAM.
Overall, Columbus strengthened the roster with its moves made this window. The additions of Diaz and Room are both high impact and should be full-time starters for the club this season and moving forward. The team added depth at the striker position with Williams and Hamilton. Strengthened their winger depth with Mokhtar, who could work his way into a starting role. On top of that, the Crew will have Cadden getting regular minutes and developing with Oxford United to come into the team next season.
Aside from Steffen, all of the departures made during the window are players that either weren’t performing with Columbus or had lost their place among deep groups. The club got younger in certain positions and added more experience in others.
All in all, this window was a net positive for the Black & Gold. Bezbatchenko and the front office made moves to address immediate needs and continue to push to get the most out of this season. At the same time, the Crew made smart moves financially with free agent signings, trading low-impact players for assets and set themselves up long-term.
The moves in this window will allow the Crew to continue to strengthen the squad and replace some aging pieces heading into the 2020 season and beyond.