When Emmanuel Boateng heard Columbus Crew SC was interested in making a trade for him a month ago, he thought it could be the exact opportunity he was looking for after a less-than-ideal stint with D.C. United. In more than a year with D.C. Boateng was only on the field for 51 minutes over three matches.
The 26-year-old Ghanaian, who had registered more than 100 appearances for the LA Galaxy during his first four seasons in Major League Soccer, was ready for a fresh start and after a phone call with Black & Gold coach Caleb Porter, he was convinced he was making the right choice.
“I was working hard and trying to help the team in D.C., but when I heard the trade was happening I was very excited to join a team where I can improve every day and help the team when I’m needed,” the winger said. “Caleb just told me to come here and work hard, that I would get my opportunities. I knew I’d have to earn my spot, that nothing would be given. I remember the word family was one he kept using, so I felt it was really important to be a part of the group off the field too.”
The trade happened just a month ago and that time has been enough for Boateng not only to get nearly twice the playing he had with United (97 minutes, in four matches), but also to find a home in Columbus and start finding his way around the city.
Life on the field, however, should be more complicated for the pacey winger going forward, as he’s set for tough competition for playing time with the winger position being arguably one of the deepest on Crew’s roster. Names like Pedro Santos, Youness Mokhtar, Luis Diaz and Derrick Etienne Jr. all enjoyed positive starts to the season in their own ways.
“It’s good competition, we’re pushing each other every day and I think that’s what you’d want as a coach,” Boateng added. “I think Caleb is happy to have a group like that because it makes all of us work hard every day to be on the team, we know he won’t just put us there. You need to show something in training and to prove yourself in games. It’s a very good group of players, we’re always happy for each other when someone scores, assists or just has a good game.”
Boosting that daily competition was exactly what Porter had in mind when the made the decision of bringing Boateng in a month ago. With that in mind, it was easy for the club to agree to let center back Axel Sjoberg leave the club to bring another winger.
After all, who better to entice competition than a five-year MLS veteran with more than 120 matches, 11 goals and 13 assists under his belt and who also feels he has something to prove after a disappointing period in the country’s capital?
“He’s got a little bit of a chip on his shoulder,” Porter remarked of Boateng. “He didn’t have a great run in D.C. and prior to that, he was one of the best left wingers in the league. I think he’s eager to prove he’s the same player he was several year ago with the Galaxy. He’s working very hard, he’s a good kid, he’s humble and quietly confident, he’s quick and he’s pretty technical. We’ve got a lot of good options on the wing and that’s a good problem because we can pick different guys.”
Boateng settling in Columbus was certainly helped by the presence of fellow Ghanaians and national team standouts Jonathan Mensah and Harrison Afful with the club. There was, however, another element of the roster which played an important role in helping the recently-arrived winger in the city and the club.
Striker Gyasi Zardes, with whom Boateng played during his first two years in Los Angeles, long ago tried to lure the Ghanaian to Central Ohio and has made himself available to show Boateng around the city and helped him integrated with new teammates and coaching staff.
“We’ve been talking about me potentially coming to Columbus since he was traded here,” Boateng said. “He’s been very good in helping me out on training and also in settling in the city and telling me where to go and everything. He’s a great player and a great person, someone who works very hard, so I enjoy being around him again and seeing him play so well.
“It was easy to tell how good he was in LA, but his movement is better now. He knows how to manipulate defenders to find pockets and he’s very clinical on finishing his chances. You just need to put the ball in front of him and even when’s not there, he’ll just find it, just like the first goal in Chicago when he made that run to the first post to get his head on it.”