Saturday’s 2-0 loss for the Columbus Crew to LAFC was tough for many to swallow. After a strong first hour of the match, the Crew gave up two goals due to defensive issues and added another loss to a top Major League Soccer team this season. It’s not always easy to find a positive in a two-goal defeat, but winger Yaw Yeboah showed that he’s making strides in adjusting to MLS, producing a stand-out performance.
After joining Columbus in the offseason, starting strong and subsequently losing his starting spot, signs are there that Yeboah is beginning to adjust to his new team and new league, providing a spark for the Black & Gold. Yeboah scored two goals in Saturday’s match before both were ruled offside.
Yeboah’s first offside goal came in the 22nd minute when fellow winger James Igbekeme found the Ghanian in the penalty area and he buried the ball into the net. As smoke went off at Lower.com Field and players celebrated, the on-field officials voided the early Crew lead.
In the 59th minute, a narrow margin on a second Yeboah shot went in, causing a pandemonium of celebration in front of the Nordecke. The play, however, went to VAR monitor and was again ruled no goal.
While offside goals don’t give much solace in a season that’s been difficult for Columbus, a team currently sits in 12th place in the Eastern Conference and 24th overall in MLS, these players do give Yeboah hope that his form is starting to turn.
“I’m working so hard in training and it’s working to score a lot of goals,” said Yeboah. “Getting that support to get two goals in the game, I mean it makes me feel like the change is coming.”
Change is all Yeboah knows in 2022. The 25-year-old Ghanaian joined the Black & Gold on Jan. 6, 2022, from Wisła Kraków of Poland’s Estraklasa league. He was the team’s biggest offseason addition. Yeboah hit the ground running, starting the first match of the year against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Feb. 26. In the home opener, Yeboah provided an assist and almost scored a goal of his own. He then started the next three matches, but his performances dipped.
Yeboah dropped from regular match starter for Columbus to in limbo status. While he has seen the field in every MLS match in 2022, Yeboah came off the bench in three of the last five games heading into Saturday. Yeboah took the opportunity to show that he was worthy of the role.
It wasn’t only his two shots that impressed, but a strong 73 minutes overall. An onside chance early for the Crew came from a Yeboah pass to Igbekeme. The ball was skied over the crossbar, but it showed that Yeboah was getting behind the defense and finding open targets.
“Yaw has been in great spots,” said head coach Caleb Porter this week. “I thought he had his best game of the year but if you rewatch all the positions he was in, he has to get a couple goals.”
Yeboah believes he’ll start scoring those goals too, and his improvement on Saturday was evidence of that belief. He’s not only looking to add on the stat sheet individually but get the Black & Gold back in the win column. Playing well in your first match, when the energy is high, and against a Vancouver side that’s at the bottom of the league is one thing. A full adjustment to the league takes time.
On the field, Yeboah’s had to adjust to new teammates, new opponents and learn a new coach’s system. That’s only half the story. It’s also about getting comfortable off the field.
While Yeboah knew fellow countryman Jonathan Mensah, the winger had a lot to learn moving to Columbus. Yeboah wants to be happy off the field as much as on. That meant trying to build comfort in the city quickly.
A direct way he’s done that is leveraging those around him. Yeboah focused first on communicating with his teammates to make friends, something that is key for a professional athlete who moved to a new country or team. Yeboah has also leveraged the rich Ghanaian community in Central Ohio. He is living in downtown Columbus in order to be in the middle of the city and is enjoying what life offers there, including his favorite restaurant, Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse. Through that, Yeboah’s learned more about his environment and began to settle.
Saturday, Yeboah looked the most comfortable he’s been since the first match of the season. As the young winger reaches that higher level of comfort on and off the field, the end product can be both a player and a team finding its form.