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Crew loan Axel Sjoberg to USL side San Antonio FC

The Black & Gold send the towering defender out to get playing time.

Columbus Crew SC announced on Thursday that the club has sent defender Axel Sjoberg on loan to United Soccer League Championship side San Antonio FC for the 2020 season. As part of the loan deal, the Crew retains the right to call Sjoberg back to Columbus at any point during the year.

Sjoberg is a recent addition to the Black & Gold roster after joining the club this offseason. Formerly of the Colorado Rapids, the Crew signed the 6-foot-7 center back off of waivers on Dec. 4. According to club president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko, the Columbus staff elected to send Sjoberg, 28, on loan in order to get him first-team playing time that he likely would not have received in a crowded Columbus center back room.

“This decision was made with the intent of getting Axel valuable minutes,” said Bezbatchenko in the press release. “It is important that he gets regular playing time and we thought this opportunity was something that would be beneficial for both Axel and San Antonio FC.”

Sjoberg was selected 14th overall in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft by the Rapids after Colorado swapped picks with the Crew. The defender made 14 appearances, all starts, during his rookie season. Sjoberg followed his debut year with his best season in MLS to date in 2016 when he was a member of the MLS Best XI and was a finalist for the Defender of the Year award. He made 31 starts, scoring two goals and added an assist to help the Rapids to 58 points on the season and the second-best record in the League. With Sjoberg on the backline, Colorado allowed a league-low 32 goals and was tops in MLS in shutouts (13) and the lowest goals against average (0.94).

The central defender dealt with an early-season hamstring injury in 2017 and that cut his playing time with the Rapids to 19 appearances, all starts. He was in and out of head coach Anthony Hudson’s lineup in 2018 before falling out of favor last season, playing a career-low seven games, five starts.

Prior to joining the Rapids, Sjoberg played for Sollentuna United FF of Sweden’s Division 2 during the 2010 season where he made 20 appearances and scored three goals. He helped the club finish in second place and advance to the Svenska Cupen. Sjoberg was named Sollentuna United’s Player of the Year that season.

At the college level, Sjoberg played at Marquette University from 2011-14, making 63 appearances, all starts, scoring 11 goals and registering nine assists. During his time as a Golden Eagle, Sjoberg was named Marquette’s Most Valuable Player twice (2013, 2014), the Big East Men’s Soccer Championship Most Outstanding Defensive Player (2013) and was named first-team All-Big East (2013, 2014), second-team All-American (2013) and to the Big East Men’s Soccer Championship All-Tournament Team (2013).

With center backs Jonathan Mensah and newly-signed Vito Wormgoor firmly entrenched as starters, and Josh Williams and Aboubacar Keita the likely first-choice backups, Sjoberg was going to find it difficult to seeing many minutes with the Crew this year. At San Antonio, the player should get games and stay sharp in case the Black & Gold need him at any point during the 2020 season.