On Friday, July 22, Columbus Crew’s Alexandru Matan left the OhioHealth Performance Center while both the Crew and Crew 2, Columbus’ MLS NEXT Pro were starting and ending their practices. That weekend, Matan wasn’t included on either team sheet for their games and now there’s an explanation. Matan is headed back to Europe, loaned to Rapid Bucuresti of Romania’s Liga I, Massive Report has learned. Included in the loan is an option for Bucuresti to purchase Matan.
Just over a year ago, on March 8, 2021, the Black & Gold signed the Romanian from FC Viitorul Constanta and he came with a highlight reel of exciting goals. Also, as a part of the Romanian Under-21 team, Matan displayed prowess around the goal, breaking down defenders and shooting from various distances.
When it came to Columbus, however, those goals never came to fruition. In 34 appearances since his signing for the Crew, Matan played 820 minutes and didn’t register a goal or an assist, playing predominantly on the wing. Of those 820 minutes, nine came from starts but the young playmaker never played a full 90 minutes with the Black & Gold’s first team.
On the MLS NEXT Pro level though, Matan was more effective. In four starts this year, Matan had three assists, again playing on the wing, but never showed the same effectiveness with the senior team.
Matan plays attacking midfield but came into a team that featured midfielder Lucas Zelarayán, meaning Matan wasn’t going to break into the No. 10 role. Instead, Matan joined the revolving door that has been the winger role.
In 2021, Matan competed for minutes with Pedro Santos, Luis Díaz, Derrick Etienne Jr. and Kevin Molino. Even when Santos moved to fullback in an injury-riddled 2021 MLS regular season and Molino suffered a torn ACL that took him out of the Crew’s gameplan, Matan still didn’t break through.
In the moments that supporters saw Matan, he did show defense-breaking moves but averaged one shot on goal every 102.5 minutes on the field. There’s an argument to be made that Matan wasn’t given as much time to show potential the Crew saw when signing him but head coach Caleb Porter’s team selection decisions showed that the one person needing to be impressed wasn’t.
This season, Etienne’s had a career year and between new signing Yaw Yeboah and Díaz, the Black & Gold attack on the wings is vastly improved from last season where only four goals were scored from the wide attackers in the run of play. In Matan’s 820 minutes, only 28 came in 2022 for Columbus.
Matan is only 22 years old, and there’s plenty of time for him to rewrite his professional story, but his first Crew chapter will feature a lot of “what ifs,” especially for supporters. Those early highlights from his time in Europe and in international play excited supporters for his future in black and gold. Questions about him intensified as Matan received fewer and fewer minutes in the year and three months he’s been on the Black & Gold roster.
The book isn’t completely closed on his time with Columbus, with the Crew retaining his contract through the loan.