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The Crew claiming Adi off waivers is a low-risk move with potential high rewards

The Black & Gold could have some of the best forward depth in MLS.

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MLS: Minnesota United FC at Portland Timbers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew SC added a potential key offensive piece to the roster on Monday when the team officially announced it claimed forward Fanendo Adi off waivers. Thee six-year MLS veteran played five seasons with the Portland Timbers before spending the last year and a half with FC Cincinnati.

“We want to welcome Fanendo to Columbus Crew SC,” Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in a press release announcing the move. “Fanendo is a forward whose proven ability as a goal scorer in our League makes him a valuable addition to our team. We recognize that last year was a difficult year for Fanendo both personally and professionally and we believe this new opportunity will be beneficial for him, as it reunites him with Caleb, under whom he found career-high success. As a Club, we believe in what he can bring to this squad as a player and teammate and that he is someone who can provide us with additional offensive options on the field. We will be working on integrating him into the squad and we look forward to his contributions to the Club.”

Adi had 54 goals in 126 regular season games for the Timbers working under head coach Caleb Porter. Adi will be reunited with Porter in Columbus, as the head coach is in his second year in charge of the Black & Gold. The duo won the 2015 MLS Cup against the Crew in a year in which Adi score 18 total goals, including two in the postseason.

But since Porter left Portland following the 2017 season, Adi has just four MLS goals and played only 12 times for Cincinnati due to a DUI charge and injuries. He was critical of the FC Cincy managers and the club as a whole and filed a grievance with the MLS Players Association claiming unfair treatment.

There were reasons for the Crew to make this move without concern. Columbus already has its starting forward in Gyasi Zardes, who has 32 regular season goals in his first two seasons with the Black & Gold. This means the Crew doesn’t need Adi to necessarily have his fourth double-digit scoring season in MLS, but rather be a secondary option to Zardes. If Adi, who is still just 29 years old, can find his Timbers form under Porter once again and accepts a secondary role behind Zardes, the forward could provide Columbus with the type of depth at the position the club has not had in some time.

What makes this move an even better deal for the Crew is how much the club will have to pay Adi. According to the MLS Player’s Union, Adi made just under $2 million in 2019. MLS rules allow for teams to blindly bid on how much they are willing to pay for the player after they are waived. According to reports from The Athletic, Columbus will pay just $205,000 of the striker’s budget charge with Cincinnati having to pay the remaining $1.8 million.

The Crew did not confirm how much the club would pay Adi but did say the forward “will not occupy a Designated Player spot” on the roster.

Simultaneously to the Black & Gold claiming Adi off waivers, FC Cincy announced they used the team’s one-time buyout for Adi. This means Adi’s salary will not count against the cap but FCC will still be responsible to pay the player.

This will allow the Crew to roster one of the league’s highest-paid forwards for less than 15 percent of what the club reportedly paid Zardes a year ago.

The addition of Adi to the Black & Gold roster could go a number of ways. If the forward is anywhere near the player he was from 2014-17, Columbus could have the type of striker depth that is rare in MLS. While it’s likely Adi’s role has already been communicated to the player, accepting coming off the bench more often than not is something Adi must prove.

Regardless of how the season turns out, the Crew added a proven veteran who could make an impact. Given the low salary charge and the chance to reunite with Porter, as well as Columbus’ offensive struggles a year ago, the decision to claim Adi off waivers is one of little risk for the Black & Gold heading into 2020.