Since the Columbus Crew won MLS Cup last December, the team has dived deep into transfers to bolster its roster or address in-season injuries. At some point since winning a championship, the Crew added 11 players, including Evan Bush, Marlon Hairston, Saad Abdul-Salaam, Kevin Molino, Alexandru Matan, Perry Kitchen, Isaiah Parente, Liam Fraser (loan from Toronto FC), Bradley Wright-Phillips, Erik Hurtado and the latest signing, Steven Moreira.
Of these 11 players, most were added to bolster roster depth for the current campaign or signed to address a missing player. A few have been signed as potential pieces for the long-term future of the Black & Gold. Moreira fits the latter category.
“He, Steven Moreira, is a player we’ve targeted,” said head coach Caleb Porter on Tuesday. “He fits the profile and it's no secret we have been looking for a right back for quite some time. There have been a couple of other guys targeted and it didn’t work out but this guy was always on our list. He was always a high-priority and always a guy we liked.”
The 27-year-old Moreira will come to Columbus to play for his first professional club outside of his home country of France. Since beginning his professional career in 2013, Moreira has played in either Ligue 1 or Ligue 2 in France, so he brings plenty of professional club experience to Ohio. He also brings youth.
In 2021, the Crew has the oldest roster in MLS with an average age of 28.5 years old. The team includes 12 players that are 30 years old or older with one of the veteran players on the Black & Gold being 35-year-old right back Harrison Afful. Columbus has signed two other right backs before getting Moreira in 29-year-old Saad Abdul-Salaam and former defender, now-converted midfielder, 27-year-old Marlon Hairston.
With Afful closer to the end of his career than his beginning, Columbus has looked for the long-term replacement at right back and the club likes Moreira as that answer.
“He’s a good player,” said Porter. “Experience, athletic, fits the profile, brings attack, solid defensively and a pretty good age.”
Moreira has the potential to be a long-term replacement at right back for the Crew but what about for this season? The Black & Gold is in the midst of a six-game losing with 13 games to go to turn it around and make the MLS Cup playoffs for a second consecutive season. Given the time of year, it’s unlikely Moreira will play as a key factor for Columbus in 2021.
“We don’t know when he is going to be here,” said Porter. “It could be a week, it could be two and he hasn’t played a game since the end of May. He hasn’t even trained.”
Moreira is fresh off a busy Ligue 2 season with Toulouse and has been out of contract since July 1. With the European season ending in May, Moreira hasn’t played in a month and is still in the process of receiving his International Transfer Certificate and P-1 Visa to complete his transfer. But the Black & Gold have an option on his contract for the next two seasons.
The key with this signing is patience and the Columbus head coach is confident it will pay off.
“The tricky part is the timing,” said Porter. “When he’ll be here, how long will it take for him to get fit. These are always great signings on paper but the reality is it’s going to take some time before he is probably going to be helping us. Certainly, he will help mostly long-term.”