After a relatively quiet offseason, the Columbus Crew have made the team’s first big acquisition of the 2022 offseason. On Thursday, the Crew announced the signing of 24-year-old Ghanaian winger Yaw Yeboah from Polish side Wisla Krakow. With this signing, Black & Gold president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko looks to strengthen Columbus’ attacking corps after a disappointing title defense in 2021.
The Crew has had great success with Ghanaian players recently, including current club captain Jonathan Mensah and the recently-departed Harrison Afful. Because of this, there are high hopes for Yeboah in Columbus.
As is typical with young players coming from overseas, there is not much known about Yeboah. Not to worry, however. With the help of some statistical analysis and some (limited) film study, here’s what fans should know about the latest addition to the Black & Gold.
At just 24 years old, Yeboah has a wealth of playing experience across some of the best leagues in the world, including stints with French club Lille, Dutch side FC Twente and Spanish second division teams Real Oviedo and FC Numancia before landing at Wisla Krakow. Perhaps the part of Yeboah’s game that sticks out the most is his pace, which is absolutely rapid and similar to current Crew player Luis Diaz. Yeboah can often easily outrun the opposition to get in behind the defense.
Perhaps Yeboah’s best attacking skill, aside from his sheer pace, is his dribbling ability and his eagerness to run at defenses. This season, Yeboah ranks first in attempted dribbles in the Polish Ekstrasala and second in completed dribbles.
Defined by Opta as “an attempt by a player to beat an opponent when they have possession of the ball. A successful dribble means the player beats the defender while retaining possession, unsuccessful ones are where the dribbler is tackled.” In layman’s terms, this statistic is used to indicate moments where a player dribbles past an opposing player in a 1 v. 1 scenario, rather than indicating the total number of touches while dribbling.
All of that is to say, with 139 attempted dribbles and 71 successful dribbles (where Yeboah successfully beat his defender) the winger has around a 51 percent success rate. At first, this number may not jump out, however, when considering the volume of attempted dribbles, the effect it could have on the Crew’s attack is staggering.
Yeboah has played in just 19 games in the Polish league this year, attempting 7.3 dribbles per game. His success rate in these scenarios (and the position that he plays) means that Yeboah was successfully bearing down on opposition goalkeepers and defenses 3.6 times per match.
For a Black & Gold team that struggled in the attack in 2021, adding a winger who can penetrate the backline off the dribble as often as Yeboah can should provide a huge boost to the attack.
In addition to his ability to run past defenders off the dribble, Yeboah proved to be a reliable source in front of goal as well. The winger’s goal tally over the past three seasons is not staggering, with just 15 goals over that time span. However, Yeboah has actually outperformed his Expected Goal (xG) tally of 13. Essentially, Yeboah’s finishing ability has enabled him to score two more goals (15) than the statistical probability of the shots he has taken would indicate (13.)
Make no mistake about it, Yeboah was signed to provide a jolt to the Crew’s attack. However, the defensive side of the game is just as important for wingers in Caleb Porter’s system.
While there is not a huge emphasis on the technical aspect of defending (i.e. tackling, duel winning, etc.) for wingers in general, Yeboah is adequate (statistically at least) in both his percentage of tackles won (49 percent) and his challenges won (43 percent), which are both about average for wide attacking players in today’s game.
What remains to be seen is Yeboah’s tactical understanding of his role in defense. The areas that Porter asks his wingers to defend and their understanding of how to defend and disrupt their opponents in possession is a huge part of Columbus’ defensive game plan. At times in the past, new signings have taken time to adjust to defensive roles and fully understand the defensive concepts.
Due to Yeboah’s wealth of experience at such a young age, he has likely seen a significant amount of different defensive systems that he may be able to use to adjust quicker to the Black & Gold’s system. Yeboah’s adjustment to this defensive system is something for Crew fans to keep an eye on in preseason and the first several games of the 2022 campaign.
There are plenty of reasons for Black & Gold fans to be excited about the latest Ghanian to make their way to Columbus. Yeboah is an exciting player who is capable of stealing the show at any point. His ability to run at and run past defenses will benefit the Crew attack in a similar vein to the way that a healthy Diaz did in 2020.
In addition, Yeboah has proven himself to be an adept finisher and will likely contribute goals to the Black & Gold attack in 2022. Defensively, Yeboah seems to be an adept technical defender and will be able to affect opposing attacks when they have the ball at their feet. The quicker that Yeboah adjusts to and understands Porter’s defensive system, the more playing time he will see.
As always, there will likely be an adjustment period for a new signing who will need to acquaint himself with a new coach and tactical plan, new teammates, a new city and a new (and unique) league halfway across the world. Once Yeboah has fully adjusted, expect him to be an excellent addition to the Crew and have a tangible impact on the 2022 campaign.