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Nemeth’s versatility could be his main asset with the Crew

The Hungarian can provide good cover for Gyasi Zardes, but will also compete for a starting spot at the left-wing.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Sporting Kansas City Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew fans were caught a little bit by surprise when the club announced on Monday the signing of forward Krisztian Nemeth. With the team at the top of the Supporters’ Shield race and benefiting from a prolific offense led by Gyasi Zardes, the Hungarian’s signing seemed redundant to many, but instead of changing the team’s attacking system, Nemeth’s arrival is designed to actually enhance it.

The 31-year-old forward will be at his third Major League Soccer team Columbus and it’s likely that he will be in his most limited role in the league so far when he arrives in Central Ohio. After being a star in his two stints with Sporting Kansas City and getting inconsistent starts with the New England Revolution between 2017 and 2018, Nemeth seems more of an alternative to head coach Caleb Porter than an immediate upgrade over any of the team’s starters.

The Hungarian has shown he can score in MLS, though, and that can help him earn more playing time with the Crew. Nemeth 21 goals to his name in 84 league matches in his career. On the Black & Gold roster, only Zardes and Fanendo Adi have a better average. Adi, however, hasn’t been in great form in a while as has been battling persistent injuries. He has put the ball in the back of the net only four times in his last 35 league matches, while Nemeth is fresh off of a 2019 season in which he scored eight goals in 24 matches with SKC.

Being Zardes’ primary backup seems to be Nemeth’s most obvious fit in Columbus. Other than his scoring ability, Nemeth’s presence up front will allow the Black & Gold to play the same system that the team uses when their starting striker is on the field.

Unlike the 6-foot-4, 185-pound Adi, who uses his physical strength as one of his main assets, Nemeth is a lot more mobile and, like Zardes, thrives when running channels and looking for space behind the opponent’s defensive line to make one-touch finishes. His 2015 MLS Goal of the Year shows he can also run and dribble the ball with ease and is a skilled finisher.

MLS has certainly changed a lot since Nemeth last played in the league, but given his skillset and age, there’s no reason to believe the forward can’t be as effective when used in more limited time. Additionally, his presence on the roster offers another attacking option for Porter, as Nemeth is able to play virtually anywhere on the front line. During his first stint in Kansas City, Nemeth played as a left winger and registered 11 goals and six assists in 29 matches, using his pace and his ability to finish from mid-range as his main weapons.

If he over performs, Nemeth could even beat Luis Diaz, Youness Mokhtar, Derrick Etienne Jr. or Emmanuel Boateng to be a starter on that left side with Pedro Santos on the right and Lucas Zelarayan in the middle. With the Argentinean’s recent injuries, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have yet another option available.