With longtime starter Gyasi Zardes traded to the Colorado Rapids back in April and Miguel Berry and Erik Hurtado combining for unimpressive four goals in nearly 1,000 minutes combined, the Black & Gold know they need a more reliable option up front in order to be competitive and return to the MLS Cup playoffs after missing out in 2021.
The Crew has reportedly made a run for Argentinean striker Gustavo Del Prete before the primary window closed on May 4, but had the team’s $4 million offer for the 25-year-old forward rejected by Estudiantes de la Plata.
With Del Prete reportedly being on the verge of a move to Mexico’s Club America, the Black & Gold will very possibly have to look elsewhere to get the player they want for. It’s unlikely the striker the club is looking for will come from within MLS, so here are five potential targets for Columbus:
The 34-year-old Israeli has had a long and productive career, having scored 113 goals in 156 matches since 2016, playing in China and the Netherlands. His contract with Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven is up on June 30 and will not be extended, making of Zahavi a free agent very soon.
A talented striker who can finish with both feet and move away from the penalty box to combine with the midfielders, Zahavi has several options on the table, with the most likely reportedly being Brazil’s Botafogo, who offered $4 million for an 18-month contract.
The only thing holding the deal seems to be the uncertainty of the player regarding a move to Brazil for safety reasons and that’s something that could lure the veteran to MLS — he has reportedly already received offers from the league too. Zahavi would most likely become the Crew’s second-highest paid player in the Black & Gold squad but would offer a reliable, yet relatively brief solution to the team’s scoring issues.
MLS clubs have always looked to South America when they wanted to add offensive power to their teams and Borja might be one of the hottest players in the continent right now. The 29-year-old Colombian currently plays for Junior Barranquilla, where he scored 15 goals in 22 matches but has had a career of ups and downs.
After playing for eight different teams in just seven years, Borja had a breakthrough season in 2016, when he helped Atletico Nacional win the Copa Libertadores. He was immediately bought by Brazil’s Palmeiras, but never really got a good rhythm, being loaned out twice, with great success at Atletico Nacional, and relative efficiency at Brazil’s Gremio. He was bought by Junior at the start of the year, but could leave again if the price is right.
Borja’s ups and downs could be a concern, but he is a Colombian international in his prime and has an interesting combination of physicality, speed and good finishing instincts. Argentinean giants River Plate are looking at him too and it would probably require something on the neighborhood of $5 million for Junior to let him go.
Gaich was considered one of the most promising strikers in Argentina in 2020 when he scored five goals in 12 matches for San Lorenzo. Although he had offers from some of the biggest European leagues, he ended up signing with CSKA Moscow in Russia and since then his career has taken a different turn.
Gaich never found his groove in Russia and has been loaned to smaller clubs in Italy (Benevento) and Spain (Huesca) in attempts to recover his game, but not much has happened, with him tallying just three goals in 33 matches over the last 18 months.
A physical, 6-foot-3 striker, Gaich is capable of offering a solid presence in the penalty box and in the air and is expected to be available for another loan after June 30 due to the uncertainty involving Russia right now. Although he has reportedly received offers to return to Argentina, the possibility of getting a fresh start in MLS, just like Inter Miami’s Leonardo Campana did, and connecting with compatriot Lucas Zelarayan could be appealing to him.
MLS has a long tradition of bringing underappreciated players from Brazil who then turn into valuable assets in North America. Striker Raniel Vasconcelos seems like a solid candidate to follow that path if he’s signed and gets to play in the league.
Aged 25, Raniel has played for four of the country’s biggest clubs — Cruzeiro, Sao Paulo, Santos and Vasco — and has learned how to deal with pressure at a high level. In most of these teams, he was a bench option and that’s one of the reasons why he’s been moving clubs with relative frequency.
Raniel could be a good fit with the Crew because his playing style is similar to Zardes’ in the sense that even if he’s not extremely technically gifted, he’s quick, strong and has a good one- touch finish. He’s currently on loan from Santos at Vasco, where he’s scored nine goals in 24 matches, but if the numbers are right, that shouldn’t be an issue.
Signing a player of Costa’s stature is certainly a long shot for the Crew, but if there’s a good time to try to make it happen, that would be now. At the age of 33, the former Spanish international still has some gas left in the tank and could be more open to a new experience after being a free agent for the last six months.
Costa is certainly no longer the phenomenal striker he was with Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and the Spanish National Team, but he could still be very prolific in a league like MLS. He had a brief stint in Brazil with Atletico Mineiro, helping the team win the Brazilian League and the Brazilian Cup, but was let go in January after fellow veteran Hulk moved to the striker position.
The Spanish striker is a player who had a chip on his shoulder during his entire career and even though a move to MLS might not be as challenging as some of the other adventures he had, it’s hard to believe he would take it for granted. He has the potential to create some excitement to a season that’s not going as planned for the Black & Gold, but would also command significant money and a short-term solution.