Columbus Crew 2 bolstered the team’s roster with new signing Gibran Rayo from Rochester New York FC on Thursday. The 21 year old led Rochester in goals in 2022, scoring 13 times in 23 matches, although Rayo did not score against the Black & Gold. Rayo was sixth overall in goals scored in MLS NEXT Pro and now joins the most potent attack in the league from a year ago. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Before joining New York, Rayo played with North Texas SC as part of FC Dallas’ Academy. Rayo started his career with North Texas in 2019 where he played behind United States National Team forward Ricardo Pepi, also winning the 2019 USL League One championship. Rayo had his breakout season with North Texas in 2021 where he scored seven goals.
After the 2021 season, Rayo left North Texas to play in MLS NEXT Pro with Rochester. Rayo continued in his development at RNY FC, scoring 13 goals as New York competed in the MLS NEXT Pro playoffs, ultimately losing to Crew 2. With Rochester, Rayo played as a center forward in a three-man attacking line.
The signing of Rayo looks to be a likely replacement for Jacen Russell-Rowe if the Canadian ends up playing more for the senior team in 203. Crew forward Noah Fuson has acquitted himself well on the left wing, providing excellent service, pressing and dribbling, all while being the second-leading scorer for Crew 2. While Fuson has done well on the wing, he has not led the attacking line in goals scored with Russell-Rowe out of the lineup. Jordan Knight, who also is labeled a forward on the Crew 2 roster, found most of his playing time on the wing as well. Zion Scarlett is the last forward on the the Black & Gold’s roster, currently 18. Scarlett did not see much playing time in 2022, playing only five matches and recording one shot on goal.
Even if Russell-Rowe earns more playing time up at the senior level, Crew 2 fans should be excited about the signing. Rayo had two promising seasons as a center forward and now finds himself under an attacking-minded coach in Laurent Courtois who will utilize his scoring ability.
With defender Philip Quinton still unsigned, the Black & Gold will need to look ahead toward adding defensively after adding offensive talent. Columbus did trade up in the MLS SuperDraft to select Dayton defender Xavier Zengue with the No. 27 overall pick. While Zengue will get a chance to prove himself with the first team, he could end up spending more time at the MLS NEXT Pro level.
Columbus Crew 2’s 2022 roster:
Defenders (3): Jacob Erlandson, Ariel Mbumba, Abdirizak Mohamed
Midfielders (4): Coleman Gannon, Marco Micaletto, Stephen “Nana” Tuffour, Aidan Wolf
Forwards (4): Noah Fuson, Jordan Knight, Zion Scarlett, Gibran Rayo