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The Crew sign Homegrown product Keegan Hughes to first-team contract

The Black & Gold have added another defender, this one from the Academy, to the roster.

NCAA Soccer: Dl Men’s College Cup-Georgetown vs Stanford Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Crew hasn’t made a ton of additions this offseason, as new head coach Wilfried Nancy settles into his role and gets to know his roster, but the Black & Gold have made some key changes. This was the case again on Wednesday afternoon.

Columbus announced the signing of Academy product Keegan Hughes to a Homegrown contract. This first professional contract for the defender will run through 2024 with a club option through 2026.

Hughes came to the Crew Academy from Heath, Ohio in 2013 and had success at all levels of the professional pathway before playing for four years at Stanford. He captained his Black & Gold sides in the 2016-17 and 2018-19 seasons and was named the Crew Academy Player of the Year in 2018 after a season in which he scored five goals in 26 games for the Under-18/19 team.

“We are thrilled to welcome another Crew Academy player to the first team,” Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in a statement announcing the signing. “During his time at Stanford, Keegan proved himself to be one of the top defenders in the collegiate game, and we are excited for him to return home to central Ohio. This signing is a testament to the tireless efforts of Kelvin Jones and the Crew Academy staff. The Academy has continued to provide a pathway to the professional ranks as we cultivate and develop top youth talent in the state and region. We look forward to working with Keegan as he takes this important next step in his career.”

Keegan built on his success with the Crew Academy during his time as a Cardinal. He quickly became an important part of the Stanford team, starting 21 matches as a freshman in 2019 and ranking fifth on the team with three assists and sixth with three goals. He helped lead a Cardinal backline that was 10th in the country in goals against average (0.688) and tied for sixth in shutouts (11) on a team that finished second in the Pac-12 and made it to the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament. Following the season, Hughes was named to the College Soccer News All-Freshman First Team

As a sophomore in the COVID-delayed 2020 season, Hughes was an All-Pac-12 second-team honoree after starting all 14 matches Stanford played. While he did not score a goal that year, Hughes did register one assist as the Cardinal finished at the top of the Pac-12 standings but lost in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

Hughes again was a crucial part of the Stanford defense in 2021, starting all of the team’s 18 matches. He managed a goal and two assists throughout the season, was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention and was part of a defensive group that finished 19th nationally in goals against average (0.876). As a team, the Cardinal struggled, finishing with a 6-6-6 record and in fourth place in the Pac-12, failing to make the NCAA Tournament.

Last season, Hughes again started all 20 games for a Stanford side that went 12-2-6 and finished second in the Pac-12 standings. Hughes had four goals and one assist in 2022 and helped a defense that gave up one goal per game and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

With his first professional contract signed, Hughes becomes the Crew’s 20th Homegrown signing in the club’s history. He joins midfielders Aidan Morris, Isaiah Parente and Sean Zawadzki as the other current Homegrown products on the roster.

Hughes will compete with fellow center backs Milos Degenek, Jonathan Mensah and Josh Williams for a place in Nancy’s lineup.