The Columbus Crew is rewarding arguably the team’s best player over the last two seasons in central defender and captain Jonathan Mensah. The club announced today that Jonathan, 30, has agreed to a multi-year contract extension with the Black & Gold. The deal uses allocation money and will begin in 2021.
“We are thrilled to announce that Jonathan has signed a multi-year contract extension with the Club,” Crew President and General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in the release announcing the extension. “In addition to having a ‘Defender of the Year’ award-worthy season in 2020 and consistently being one of the top defenders in MLS, Jonathan is someone who leads by example and serves as a role model to the younger players. He has earned the respect of teammates, coaches and the Central Ohio community alike for his efforts on and off the field and we are delighted that he has committed to remain in Columbus.”
Jonathan was acquired by the Crew in January of 2017 under former head coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter. It was not the finest of starts for the Ghanian center back, who initially struggled to adjust to Major League Soccer. Despite a wealth of international experience, including playing in two FIFA World Cups, Jonathan needed time, as many do, to get used to the rigors and physical nature of MLS.
In his first season in Columbus, Jonathan started 25 of the 26 games he played, scoring two goals while playing alongside Josh Williams and Nicolai Naess. That year, the Crew made the MLS Cup playoffs as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference but had the most goals allowed of any playoff team from the East. The Black & Gold went to Atlanta United and shut out the favorites, winning 3-1 in a penalty kick shootout before falling to New York City FC 4-3 after a two-game aggregate score in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
In his second season with the Crew, Jonathan played in 27 games, making 26 starts with one goal, as a part of a slightly improved defense that allowed 45 goals. Columbus again finished as the fifth seed to make the playoffs with Jonathan often partnering with Williams or Lalas Abubakar. The Black & Gold again advanced from Knockout Round, defeating D.C. United 3-2 in penalty kicks after a 2-2 draw in regulation but lost 3-1 on aggregate in the East semis.
Last season was a low point for the Crew, who struggled in the first year with Caleb Porter as head coach. Jonathan played well but missed time, seeing action in just 24 games, 23 starts, and failing to score a goal for the first time in his Black & Gold career. While the team allowed just 47 goals, the group failed to score often, finishing 10th in the East, eight points out of a playoff spot.
Jonathan has come back with a vengeance in 2020. In the running for MLS Defender of the Year, Jonathan has played every minute of the regular season for Columbus who boasts the best defense in the league with only 15 goals allowed through 18 games played. After being named captain ahead of the year, Jonathan led the Crew to a historic defensive start to the season, allowing just five goals through the first 13 matches played. The Black & Gold currently sit in third in the East and have already secured a playoff spot with five games remaining in the regular season.
In total, Jonathan has played 95 regular season games for Columbus and was twice named the team’s Defender of the Year (2018, 2019). He also took home the Black & Gold’s Humanitarian of the Year award in 2017.
The Crew next play on Saturday when the team travels to take on the Houston Dynamo. That game is scheduled to kick off at 8 p.m. ET and will air on Sports Time Ohio.