The 2021 season has had plenty of Columbus Crew players receive international call-ups and it won’t stop in the fall. Crew captain Jonathan Mensah was selected for Ghana’s roster and is headed to Africa for the Black Stars' first two FIFA World Cup qualifiers. September will be the start of the second round of Confederation of African Football qualifying matches with games to also be played in October and November.
The September international window features play from across the globe for World Cup qualifiers. Midfielder Liam Fraser is the only other Crew player called up, as he joins Canada for CONCACAF qualifiers. The likes of Gyasi Zardes and Luis Diaz could also be called up for future CONCACAF qualifiers for the United States Men’s National Team and Costa Rica. The fall will once again be a juggling act of rotation with personal expected to leave.
Columbus’ captain has continued his stellar play from the 2020 campaign into this year. Mensah has played in 21 matches this season and is among MLS’s best defenders. He has 110 clearances, 26 blocks, 32 interceptions and has helped lead the Black & Gold backline in six clean sheet performances. He has also found the back of the net three times this calendar year with one goal in the CONCACAF Champions League and two headers in MLS play against Atlanta United.
The 31-year-old center back has been a frequent member of the Black Stars squad for a decade with 65 caps for his country. Mensah was a part of Ghana’s last two World Cup squads, making appearances in the 2010 and 2014 tournaments, including starting all three group games in Brazil in 2014. He hasn’t appeared for his country for over two years with the COVID-19 pandemic delaying the start of the second round of Africa’s World Cup qualifying campaign.
Mensah is in a roster that includes Premier League players Daniel Amartey, Thomas Partey and Jordan Ayew. The Black Stars hope to seek redemption after missing the 2018 FIFA World Cup by getting to Qatar for 2022. The process begins on Sept. 3 at Cape Coast Stadium in Ghana where the hosts will take on Ethiopia in thier first group match. Three days later, the Black Stars will play South Africa in Johannesburg at FNB Stadium, the same stadium Mensah and Ghana lost to Uruguay in heartbreaking fashion at the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals.
Ghana is in Group G and won’t play the fourth team, Zimbabwe, until October. The second round of qualifying in Africa consists of 10 groups with four teams each. Each country will play six matches with the first place team in each group advancing to the final round of qualifying. The 10 group winners will be drawn into two-legged matches with the five aggregate winners booking places to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Mensah is now set to miss the Crew’s upcoming match at Orlando City SC on Sept. 4. Head coach Caleb Porter will look to Vito Wormgoor and likely Aboubacar Keita as the center backs options with Josh Williams still not at full health. Should Mensah continue to be called up for Ghana’s World Cup qualifiers, he could miss some time in October and November as well.