The rumors that were circulating for weeks were finally confirmed and Chris Cadden is no longer a Columbus Crew player. The Scottish defender returned to his home country to play for Hibernian FC after just one season in Major League Soccer and his departure opens up a spot in the roster the Black & Gold will have to fill prior to the start of the 2021 season.
Columbus’ starting right back spot has, for the most part of the last season, belonged to Harrison Afful, who for the entirety of that time has had the reliable cover of Hector Jimenez, who won’t return in 2021 as well after he signed with expansion franchise Austin FC. Considering Afful is 34, the Crew certainly need a viable option to allow the Ghanaian some nights off in what is expected to be an intense and demanding season and, more than that, the team could be in position to sign someone with the ability to replace the veteran in a year or two.
The Black & Gold did add two potential options with the selection of Clemson’s Justin Malou and Ohio State’s Josh Jackson-Ketchup in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft. But as Crew fans have learned in recent years, it’s hard for draft picks to make an impact early in their careers.
Considering the current state of sports in which teams and leagues have all been financially impacted by the global pandemic, it’s likely the Crew will target free agents or players who wouldn’t cost the club a ton. With that in mind, no DeAndre Yedlin on the list. Sorry, to squash that rumor.
There are basically three different ways the Black & Gold could approach the market, so let’s dive into each of them and take a look at a couple of options that fit each of those profiles.
If the coaching staff and the front office don’t feel like they have a long-term option in their sights at this point, they could turn to a veteran, proven player that would work only as a short-term solution. That would most likely be the most affordable path too.
It’s not clear if the former U.S. international would be interested in playing in MLS for the first time in his career, but if that’s within the realm of possibilities for him, it doesn’t get much better than the reigning champions. Also, he might not have a ton of options after being released by Turkey’s Karagmuruk after just 12 matches.
Lichaj spent the last 13 years (and his entire professional career) in England, where he featured for Aston Villa, Leeds United and Hull City, among others. He’s 32 now and while his physique might be declining, it should still be enough for him to rotate with Afful.
Duval is available after his contract option for 2021 was declined by the Portland Timbers at the end of last season after he played in only 10 matches. He’s also versatile, being capable of filling up at the center back spot if needed too.
The 29-year-old defender has been a little bit of a journeyman recently, having played for four different MLS clubs in the last five seasons. He was solid yet unspectacular in each of these four stops, except the Houston Dynamo, which might be exactly what the Crew needs right now.
Another alternative would be investing a little bit more in a player that could potentially take Afful’s spot in the near future. If that is the way the Crew want to go, it would be nice to have that player behind the Ghanaian for at least a season before he takes over.
Herrera is one of the up-and-coming right backs in MLS right now. At 23, he played 73 matches for the Real Salt Lake in his three seasons in the league. He’s not a highly-productive player from an offensive standpoint, having registered only five assists in the period, but is a strong overall performer, having recently been part of the U.S. Under-23 National Team camp.
Players like Herrera aren’t typically moved around the league, but considering RSL is going through a tumultuous selling process and that the team recently shopped forward Corey Baird to LAFC, it’s not inconceivable they would be willing to listen if the Crew made an offer for the fullback and with the Black & Gold having most of their roster set, they might have the resources to do so. The cost here might be significantly higher than the other options, but Herrera has the potential to be a long-term solution for the team and could be worth a shot.
OK, Powell is no spring chicken at 26 but it’s not unreasonable to think his best years could still be ahead of him. The Jamaican international has a wealth of MLS experience, been in the league since 2013, and his stock is at the lowest it has been after subpar campaigns with FC Cincinnati and Inter Miami in the last two seasons.
Powell, however, had the best years of his career when he played with Crew head coach Caleb Porter in Portland and perhaps a reunion would be enough to spark some of his best soccer. He’s a very offensive-minded player, who would add some dynamism to Columbus’ offense.
Looking for reinforcements overseas has been always a trend in MLS and the Crew is a good example with four of its five fullbacks from last year’s roster coming from the international market. There could be complications with visas and traveling, but there are also some interesting alternatives to look at.
Uruguay is well represented in MLS by the likes of Nicolas Lodeiro and Diego Rossi and maybe Aguirregaray wants to follow the same path. The fullback was a part of the country’s national team picture between 2012 and 2014 and represented Uruguay at the London 2012 Olympics.
Aguirregaray is out of contract since his deal with Saudi Arabia’s Al-Fateh, one of the 10 clubs he played for since 2007, ended late last year, but he appeared for some competitive leagues in the last decade, including in Italy, Argentina and Mexico. At 31, he probably still has some gas left on his tank and could be worth a look.
The Paraguayan is well known by those following MLS as he spent the entirety of the 2019 season with the Timbers. He wanted to return to Oregon after his loan contract expired last summer, but no deal was agreed with Argentina’s River Plate, the club that owns his rights. It’s clear at this point the 30-year-old Moreira is not part of head coach Marcelo Gallardo’s plans and River could be more willing to negotiate now.
Moreira is mostly known for his defensive game, but he found a good offensive form in MLS, scoring two goals and registered four assists in 28 matches. He’s been occasionally called up for the Paraguayan national team and has a fair amount of international experience.
What’s the best option?
This poll is closed