It’s official. On Monday morning, the Columbus Crew announced the signing of Romanian midfielder Alexandru Matan from Romanian club FC Viitorul Constanta. This was first reported Sunday evening by Jacob Meyers and later confirmed by Massive Report. The 21-year old reportedly was acquired for a transfer fee of approximately $1.8 million. Matan is a creative midfielder who can slot into any of the team’s three attacking positions behind the striker.
“Alex is a promising young player whose technical ability, dribbling skills and ability to play on both sides of the ball make him a good fit for our style of play,” Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in the press release announcing the signing. “As someone who is a creative player capable of playing wide or centrally, he gives us another dynamic attacking option which will be critical with a busy schedule across Champions League and MLS action in the coming months. We are excited to welcome him and look forward to incorporating him into our group.”
Matan spent the first part of his young football career in Romania’s Liga I with Viitorul Constanta, a club located in Ovidiu and founded by Romanian soccer legend Gheorghe Hagi. The midfielder was with the club since 2016 before making his move to the 2020 MLS Cup champions. In his time at Constanta, Matan played in 66 games in all competitions, scoring five goals and providing 12 assists. Most notably, Matan made six appearances in the UEFA Europa League qualifiers.
Outside of his appearances in Liga I, Matan was also a fixture of the Romanian youth national teams. In October of 2016, he made his first of three total caps with the Under-17 squad. His breakthrough came just a year later when he moved up to Romania’s U-19 team and amassed eight goals in six games before moving to the U-21 setup. Matan has made seven caps with the U-21 team since he was 18 years old.
While Matan exact place in the team is yet to be determined, he will provide head coach Caleb Porter with another attacking option. This could be useful come the summer when players may miss time on international duty at the Gold Cup. Three Crew wingers could be headed to that tournament in Luis Diaz (Costa Rica), Derrick Etienne (Haiti) and Kevin Molino (Trinidad & Tobago).
The addition of Matan also marks a significant milestone in Crew history, as he will become the first Romanian player to suit up for the Black & Gold. The club now has players representing 13 different countries: United States, Argentina, Netherlands, England, Brazil, Ghana, Haiti, Romania, Curacao, Spain, Portugal, Trinidad & Tobago and Costa Rica.
Columbus is in the midst of its final week of preseason training camp in Chula Vista, California. The Crew will return to Ohio on March 14 and train in Columbus before heading to Orlando, Florida for the final two full weeks of preseason. The 2021 season begins on April 8 when the Black & Gold play Real Esteli in the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 in Managua, Nicaragua.
The Crew’s current 2021 roster:
Goalkeepers (4): Evan Bush, Eric Dick, Matt Lampson, Eloy Room
Defenders (9): Harrison Afful, Waylon Francis, Marlon Hairston, Aboubacar Keita, Grant Lillard, Jonathan Mensah, Milton Valenzuela, Josh Williams, Vito Wormgoor
Midfielders (12): Artur, Luis Diaz, Derrick Etienne, Jr., Perry Kitchen, Alexandru Matan, Aidan Morris, Kevin Molino, Darlington Nagbe, Isaiah Parente, Pedro Santos, Lucas Zelarayan
Forwards (3): Miguel Berry, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Gyasi Zardes