The Columbus Crew will see one of its European players off to join his national team during this June international break. Romanian winger Alexandru Matan has been called up to join the Under-23 Romanian squad for two friendly matches in Spain. Matan is one of five total Columbus Crew players off on international duty along with goalkeeper Eloy Room (Curacao), midfielder Liam Fraser (Canada) and wingers Derrick Etienne Jr. (Haiti), and Luis Diaz (Costa Rica) all with their respective nations.
Matan was signed by the Crew this past winter for a reported $1.8 million as an attacking depth option that can play on the wings or in the center attacking midfield spot for Lucas Zelarayan. The 21 year old from Romania has appeared in all seven MLS matches with just one start this season. That came in the Crew’s 2-0 loss to Toronto FC on May 12. Matan still is yet to make a consistent imapct in MLS but in the brief stints on this pitch, he’s shown his speed and tenacity.
The young player will likely be getting plenty of minutes for his country in these upcoming friendlies with the U-23 Romania squad. Matan most recently played for the Under-21 Romania side at the Under-21 European Championships in March. He started all three matches and had a goal and an assist in Romania’s 2-1 victory against Hungary in the group stage. Matan is now up with the oldest youth squad as they prepare for bigger matches this summer.
Romania is playing both of its matches in Marbella, Spain, a southern city right off the coast and in the province of Malaga. Matan and Romania will play Mexico on June 5 with a second match on June 8 against Australia. These two friendlies will be the last matches for Romania before its trip to Tokyo to compete in the Summer OlympicsGames.
The Tricolors are in the Olympics for the first time since 1964 when the games were first held in Tokyo and Romania’s schedule has already been announced. Romania will open the tournament on July 22 in Kashima against reigning Olympics semifinalists Honduras followed by a July 25 match against South Korea and a final group game in Sapporo on July 28 versus New Zealand. Matan has been one of the featured players in Romania’s youth system over the past couple of years and is expected to be included in Romania’s Olympic roster.
Should Matan head to Tokyo and become an Olympian, he will be away from the Crew for a chunk of the late summer schedule. The Black & Gold have 12 matches total in July and August with the likelihood of Matan missing a portion of those before, during and after the Olympics to account for team travel. The winger might not be the only Columbus player that will be gone during the summer with the likes of Diaz, Room, Etienne and Fraser all possible absentees during the Gold Cup and possibly for fall World Cup qualifiers.