Coming off of winning its second ever MLS Cup title, the Columbus Crew hasn’t rested on its laurels and spent the offseason attempting to make the team better by adding to the roster. The Crew added yet another piece on Thursday when the team selected Clemson defender Justin Malou No. 27 overall in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft.
Malou, a Kedougou, Senegal native who can play central defender and right back, attended Montverde Academy in Florida prior to committing to the Tigers. As a freshman, Malou played in 13 of Clemson’s 19 games, starting seven while registering more than 680 minutes of game action. Malou scored his first collegiate goal in a 2-1 overtime win against Georgia Tech in early September. The Tigers finished the 2017 season with a 12-6-1 record, 4-4 in ACC play, but lost in the ACC Tournament semifinals to eventual champion Wake Forest. Despite the defeat, Malou was named to the ACC All-Tournament Team.
In 2018, Malou started 11 of the 14 games he played for the Tigers, helping the team to a 7-9-1 record, 2-6-0 in the ACC, and lost in the first round of the ACC Tournament to Notre Dame. While Malou did not make it on the score sheet as a sophomore, the defender did register two assists in a 3-1 win against the College of Charleston.
Malou really established himself as a junior in 2019. The defender played in all 22 games for Clemson, starting 21 contests, while playing 1,806 minutes. Throughout the season, Malou contributed two goals on seven shots as well as five assists. The Tigers finished the year with an 18-2-2 record and a 6-1-1 record in ACC play. Clemson made it to the ACC Tournament final before losing to Virginia 3-1. The Tigers advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament before fall 5-4 on penalty kicks to Stanford.
The ACC was one of a few collegiate soccer conferences to play in the fall of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Malou started all 11 matches during the season at center back and played the full 90 minutes in nine of those contests, including featuring in each of Clemson’s three shutouts. Malou scored his only goal of the season in a 2-0 win against UAB, a game in which he was named captain of the Tigers. Clemson finished the year with an 8-2-1 record and a 3-2-1 mark in conference play. The Tigers won the ACC Tournament, defeating No. 1 seed Pittsburgh 2-1 in the championship game.
Coming to the Crew, Malou will add versatility with his ability to play multiple positions along the backline. He can operate at center back or step out to the right fullback position. Malou will be able to back up veteran right back Harrison Afful, who while still more than capable at the MLS level, is reaching the end of his career at 34 years old.