The Columbus Crew has added forward Jacen Russell-Rowe from the club’s MLS NEXT Pro side Crew 2 on a short-term loan and will be available for selection against Atlanta United it was announced on Saturday. While this is not the Designated Player striker fans are waiting to be signed once the July transfer window opens, this adds an interesting dynamic to what head coach Caleb Porter could do offensively.
After beginning the season coming off the bench, Russell-Rowe has started six straight games for Crew 2, scoring a goal in each contest. He is the Black & Gold reserve team’s leading scorer and is tied for the lead in MLS NEXT Pro with Alfonso Ocampo-Chávez of Tacoma Defiance. Throughout the season, Russell-Rowe has shown different ways to score goals, which could come in handy for a Columbus first team that has struggled to put the ball in the back of the next consistently in 2022.
“At the end of the day, our front three is where we’re falling short,” Porter said this week of his team that has scored 15 goals in 12 games, seven of which came in the opening two contests of the year. “We need Yaw (Yeboah), Miguel (Berry), Erik Hurtado, (Lucas Zelarayan), guys that play on the wing to score goals and they’re in great spots to do that. And ultimately everybody sees that, everybody knows that. Those guys know that as well.”
Perhaps Russell-Rowe could be on that list after Saturday.
Russell-Rowe is a 19-year-old from Brampton, Canada. Notably, Russell-Rowe represented Canada in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2019, where he scored two goals in three appearances. Before joining Crew 2, Russell-Rowe came through the Toronto FC academy before going to play collegiately for the Mayland Terrapins. He scored four goals and had five assists in 26 games at Maryland.
The forward now becomes the third Crew 2 player loaned to the senior team this season after defender Philip Quinton and forward Noah Fuson made the move to the Crew for the U.S. Open Cup match again Detroit City FC. Russell-Rowe is the first Crew 2 player loaned to the senior team for an MLS regular season game.
For those who have not been paying attention to Crew 2 or MLS NEXT Pro league, Columbus sits atop the Eastern Conference and is second in overall standings with a game in hand. The Black & Gold have a +10 goal differential and Russell-Rowe is a big reason why.
Russell-Rowe has a chance to seize his moment and carve a possible roster spot for himself. Berry has just two goals this season and Hurtado has one. Russell-Rowe does not carry into this game the burden of expectations and can look for the opportunities that come.