2018 Key Transfers: Columbus Crew

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we will be running through the key additions and losses for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at Columbus Crew’s key transfers and what it could mean for them in the 2018 MLS season…

Columbus Crew are heading into the 2018 season with plenty of uncertainty still surrounding the club. Relocation concerns are still hanging over the franchise and key players have moved on to rival teams. Gregg Berhalter is preparing for his fifth-straight season as the Crew head coach but he knows the team needs some more firepower if they are to make the playoffs once again. They finished fifth last term after a strong end to the season and beat Atlanta and New York City FC in the playoffs. However, they couldn’t get past Toronto FC in the Eastern Conference Championship game. They ended the season on a high, on the field, and need to try and hit the ground running with a new-look team this time around…

Key Signings

Mike Grella: Grella has proven himself as a dangerous playmaker in MLS since joining the Red Bulls ahead of the 2015 season. He scored 16 goals and added 13 assists in his first two seasons with the Red Bulls but was ruled out for the season back in June last year. He was picked up by Colorado in the re-entry draft but instantly traded to Columbus in return for a second-round draft pick in 2019. The Crew will hope he can stay injury-free and settle quickly into a new-look Columbus attack.

Gyasi Zardes: Alongside Grella will be fellow new arrival Gyasi Zardes, who has been sent to Columbus from the Galaxy following a big trade for Ola Kamara. Zardes had been with his hometown club for five-straight years, but saw his involvement drop off massively over the past two seasons as a result of injury troubles and poor form. He needs to play more games, and should get that opportunity with the Black and Gold. He also needs to play in his natural attacking position, after being deployed at right-back during the latter stages of his time with the Galaxy. He has the potential to be a hit, but it’s a major ask for him to replace Kamara’s goals.

Milton Valenzuela: This is a player to look out for in 2018. The 19-year-old left-back has joined the Crew as a Designated Player on loan from Newell’s Old Boys with the option to buy. Valenzuela will be classed a Young Designated Player this season and is expected to be a regular starter at left-back, replacing the departed Jukka Raitala and Waylon Francis. He is an attacking full-back, who should suit Gregg Berhalter’s attacking style of play perfectly. Expect him to impress.

Notable Departures

Waylon Francis: The loss of Francis means Columbus are left thin at left-back. Raitala also left and although Valenzuela has arrived, the absence of Francis in the dressing room could be a blow after spending the past four seasons with the club. He has joined the Seattle Sounders, where he will hope to see more game time after two consecutive years of struggling to nail down a regular starting berth with the Crew.

Ola Kamara: Kamara’s exit had looked on the cards for some time and it was made official following the 2018 MLS SuperDraft as LA Galaxy sent Zardes and $400,000 in allocation money the Crew’s way. Kamara scored 34 goals in 59 appearances for Columbus over two seasons and his absence will more than likely be felt. Particularly if Zardes fails to hit the ground running.

Kekuta Manneh: Manneh was expected to be a hit in Columbus after joining from the Whitecaps last year but he managed just four goals and three assists in 19 games. He was offered a contract to remain with the Crew for the 2018 season but has decided to make the move the Liga MX instead with Pachuca. His loss adds to depth problems in attack as things stand, with Kamara and Meram’s departures leaving Columbus short of options in attack.

Justin Meram: Columbus made it clear they wouldn’t let Meram leave the club unless they received a significant offer this winter. That was even after the winger had made it clear he was looking for a move, as a result of relocation concerns and because he was looking for a new challenge. Everyone ended up happy. Meram got a new challenge and Columbus received a significant offer as Orlando City sent $1.05 million in allocation money as well as an international roster spot. Meram’s loss will no doubt be felt, both on the field and off it. He was a fan favourite after being drafted in 2011, going on to score 37 goals in 188 games.

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MLS Preview and Prediction: Portland Timbers vs Vancouver Whitecaps

Competition: Major League Soccer – Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

Venue: Providence Park – Sunday, May 22 – 16:30 ET (21:30 BST)

Match Odds: Portland 21/20 – Draw 12/5 – Vancouver 13/5

Match Preview

Portland Timbers take on Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday night in the latest Cascadia Cup clash as part of MLS Rivalry Week, with both sides in contrasting form heading into the clash.

Portland have really struggled to live up to their title of MLS Cup champions so far. They have lost three on the bounce and sit ninth in the West. Injuries haven’t helped but Caleb Porter knows his side need to be doing much better.

They fell 2-1 at home to New York City FC last weekend and have conceded a total of 22 goals in 12 games – the most in MLS.

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The visit of Vancouver offers the chance to give the fans and players a real boost. However, that looks unlikely given the ‘Caps upturn in form lately.

Vancouver have now won three in a row and have moved up to third in the West heading into the weekend.

Their 4-3 win at Toronto last weekend was their first on the road since March and they will now look to follow it up with another away victory.

This will be the second meeting between the two sides this season. Vancouver beat Portland 2-1 just two weeks ago and sit atop the Cascadia Cup standings at this stage, having beaten Seattle 2-1 as well in the only other game in the series so far.

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Team News

Portland have struggled with injuries all season and they are showing no signs of slowing up. Andy Thoma, Alvas Powell, Adam Kwarasey and Darren Mattocks are all definitely out, while Diego Chara and Fanendo Adi are both doubts.

Vancouver will be without fullback Fraser Aird as he will serve a one-game suspension here. Christian Dean, Deybi Flores and Masato Kudo are all ruled out through injury, while Octavio Rivero is a doubt.

Key Points

Portland Timbers’ last five: D/W/L/L/L

Vancouver Whitecaps’ last five: D/L/W/W/W

Key Stat: The Timbers have only lost one of nine all-time home meetings with Vancouver, shutting out their rivals in three of the last four clashes at Providence Park.

Key Player: Kekuta Manneh – The Whitecaps winger netted twice in last week’s impressive win at Toronto and will now look to kick on with another bright display in what is a massive game for both clubs. He has now scored two and assisted two in his last two outings and is looking sharp.

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Score Prediction

Portland Timbers 1-2 Vancouver Whitecaps – Goals are surely guaranteed here as both have been scoring and conceding plenty of late. The Timbers are struggling, having lost three on the bounce, while Vancouver have won their last three and look to be on a hot streak. The away side don’t win many in Portland but look primed for success on Sunday.

MLS Fantasy Focus: Who should you be bringing in for the first DGW of the season?

By Jamie Dawe & Sam Martin

Week 3 Review

The Good:

LA Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes ($9.5) helped continue his side’s unbeaten home run as he netted two goals in his side’s 3-1 win against San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday as they climbed to 2nd in the Western Conference. Reigning MLS Cup champions Portland came from two goals down to grab a point at home to Real Salt Lake, with Fanendo Adi ($10.2) grabbing a brace, including one from the spot late on. Philadelphia picked up their second win of the season with a convincing 3-0 home victory over the New England Revolution. American forward CJ Sapong ($8.1) opened his MLS 2016 goals account with two in his side’s well-deserved victory, while rookie defender Keegan Rosenberry ($5.5) made four interceptions and two crucial tackles to preserve his side’s second clean-sheet in three matches. 

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The Bad:

Unbeaten Real Salt Lake threw away a two-goal lead at Portland Timbers in the last 11 minutes, but also saw two of their men receive red cards. With his side a goal up, midfielder Kyle Beckerman ($8.3) saw red, followed by defender Jamison Olave ($7.8), who received his marching orders in the 83rd minute. Manager Jeff Cassar will surely be frustrated with his side’s lack of discipline. A further three red cards were dished out across the weekend, making a grand total of 5 across all matches. San Jose’s Jamaican DP Simon Dawkins ($8.6), New England Revolution defender Je-Vaughn Watson ($6.9) and former Wigan Athletic midfielder Roger Espinoza ($7.2) all saw red for their misdemeanours. It certainly was another fiery weekend in MLS!

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Week 4 Preview

Must Buy:

With the first Double Gameweek of the season hurtling towards us at top speed, it’s time for you to stack up on players who could make a real impact in the Week 4 scoring charts. I’m going to attempt to recommend one player from each side that has a Double Gameweek this week. Firstly, from DC United, Brazilian midfielder Marcelo Sarvas ($7.1) is definitely a safe bet to score a decent quantity of bonus points in both matches, so if you’re looking for guaranteed points, he’s your man. FC Dallas are missing a number of their key players this international break, so it’s a chance for Mauro Diaz ($10.4) to continue to show his incredible credentials without the likes of Tesho Akindele and Kellyn Acosta surrounding him. The New England Revs have had a disappointing start to the season, but it could’ve been a lot worse if it wasn’t for star ‘keeper Bobby Shuttleworth ($5.8). A clean sheet and two saved penalties in three games make Shuttleworth by far and away the best performer so far in this poor New England side. I also expect that this week will be the week that Kekuta Manneh’s ($8.5) ability shines through for the Whitecaps in their double header of home games. However, I would not recommend picking up any Whitecaps defenders as they face free-scoring Houston on Saturday, followed by the visit of LA Galaxy, who are also a dangerous attacking outfit.

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Must Sell:

This week, I’m struggling to see anyone or any team that stands out to me as particularly worth selling over everyone else. Obviously, dropping any of the red-carded players can’t be argued against and anyone losing faith in the Sounders ever picking up form would be understood if they were to remove Clint Dempsey ($10.8) or Jordan Morris ($8.2) from their side. The New York Red Bulls also picked up a host of hamstring injuries in their 4-3 victory over Houston, so defenders Gideon Baah ($8.0) and Ronald Zubar ($7.8) could be ones to remove before their match against the Revs on April 1.

Seattle Sounders vs Vancouver Whitecaps 2016 Clint Dempsey


There’s a new leader in the MLSGB Fantasy League this week, as Damian Reed’s brilliantly named side De Jong Trousers now tops the leaderboard. However, this week’s highest scorer was SW Whistler’s squad Pits of Passyunk with 87 points, which included double figures from Philly players CJ Sapong and Fabinho, his chosen captain Cyle Larin and Red Bulls midfield maestro Sacha Kljestan.

Who do you think is the best player to select for the upcoming Double Gameweek?

MLS Preview and Prediction: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Seattle Sounders

Competition: Major League Soccer – Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders

Venue: BC Place – Saturday, September 19 – 19:00 ET (00:00 BST)

Match Odds: Vancouver 19/20 – Draw 5/2 – Seattle 14/5

Match Preview

Vancouver Whitecaps host Cascadia rivals Seattle Sounders on Saturday night in the third and final regular season meeting this season, with plenty at stake heading into this one.

Vancouver currently lead the Western Conference as well as the Supporters’ Shield standings and will want to keep it that way after Saturday night’s game. They need three points to guarantee that and will be confident after winning their last four MLS games at BC Place.

As well as fighting for those incredible achievements, the Whitecaps know a win against Seattle will see them lift the Cascadia Cup ahead of close rivals Portland Timbers and the Sounders themselves.

Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2015 record: P28 – W15 – D3 – L10

Seattle Sounders vs Vancouver Whitecaps

 

Seattle need a draw or a win to claim the Cascadia Cup series and will travel to Vancouver looking to remain tight at the back. The Whitecaps have won the Cascadia Cup series the past two years and will be looking to become the first team to win it three times in a row.

The Sounders have picked back up, with regard to form, in recent weeks. A horrendous stretch through June and July shook their season up but they are on track for a playoff finish and haven’t lost in their last three.

Seattle Sounders’ MLS record: P29 – W13 – D3 – L13

They would expect to be fighting much higher up the standings than they currently are, though a win here would see them move just three points behind the Whitecaps with four to play.

Seattle Sounders vs Vancouver Whitecaps

The two previous meetings this season have seen the away side claim victories. Seattle won 2-0 at BC Place in May, before Vancouver won 3-0 at CenturyLink Field at the start of August.

This should be a great game between two fierce rivals with so much at stake at this late stage of the regular season. Not one you want to miss!

Team News

The Whitecaps’ only injury concern is Ben McKendry as he is ruled out with a knee injury. Matias Laba is suspended and won’t feature.

Seattle head to Vancouver without a whole host of names. Roman Torres, Andres Correa, Andy Craven and Damion Lowe will all definitely miss out, while Chad Barrett Leo Gonzalez, Brad Evans and Nelson Valdez are all doubts. Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey will start in attack.

Key Points

Vancouver Whitecaps’ last five: W/L/W/L/W

Seattle Sounders’ last five: W/L/W/W/D

Key Stat: Vancouver have won each of their last four home games in MLS, keeping a clean sheet in their last three at BC Place.

Key Player: Kekuta Manneh – The pacey winger has been in encouraging form of late and has picked up an assist in each of Vancouver’s last three home games. Expect him to be a livewire from the outset.

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Score Prediction

Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 Seattle Sounders – Vancouver to edge what should be a tight, but entertaining contest. Martins and Dempsey will ensure Seattle create plenty of chances but home comforts and excellent form mean it’s impossible to overlook the Whitecaps here. Home win.

Sporting Kansas City rally back to beat Whitecaps in thrilling seven-goal contest

By Jason Kurylo of ‘Pucked In The Head

Sporting Kansas City scored twice in the final ten minutes and once more in stoppage time to defeat the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps 4-3 in a thrilling Western Conference matchup on Saturday night. Sporting KC remains undefeated on home soil this season, and now climbs into fourth place in the Supporters’ Shield standings, just two behind Vancouver.

As late as the 81st minute, it looked as if their remarkable 7-0-4 home record would receive its first black mark, as the visitors held a 3-1 lead on a brace from speedster Kekuta Manneh and a wonderful free kick from 30 yards out by captain Pedro Morales.

Manneh’s goals were textbook counters. The first saw him turnover the ball just inside his own half, then run straight at the KC defence for fifty yards before left-footing it past ‘keeper Tim Melia. The second involved a similar turnover by Steven Beitashour, who scooted up the right flank and delivered a delicious cross to Manneh in the six-yard box. As for Morales, he came on in the 65th minute and doled out a handful of wonderful passes before hitting that free kick with medical precision.

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For a five-minute stretch after the Argentine’s highlight strike, Kansas City looked absolutely defeated. They had held the edge in play most of the night, but they were down by two, and that had been the game plan for the Whitecaps. The visitors were content to bide their time, let Sporting KC run at them, and look for counterstrike opportunities. It’s a strategy that has garnered them the best road record in MLS this season, and on this day it worked for most of the match.

But then Sporting Kansas City decided to set a record by coming back from two goals down in the 80th minute to win for the first time in club history. They become just the second ever MLS side to do so after DC United did back in 2003.

Krisztian Nemeth launched a perfect cross that found Dom Dwyer all alone in the box. He headed the ball past David Ousted, no mistake. Six minutes later, Chance Myers found Paulo Nagamura with room at the lip of the 18-yard box — he pounded a low one-timer into the far corner, and it was a tie game to the delight of the home crowd.

Queue the dramatic come-from-behind music; the Brazilian wasn’t finished. Deep into stoppage time, Soni Mustivar put a long cross toward the Vancouver goal, and Nagamura scored his second in a matter of minutes to lift the roof off Sporting Park.

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After the match, Vancouver coach Carl Robinson was livid with referee Juan Guzman. In particular, he cited a collision that happened with about 20 minutes left in the match, when it was still 3-1 for the visitors. Pa Madou Kah and Dom Dwyer ran into each other away from the ball, and each was attended by team medical staff. Both teams had already used their three substitutions, however, so they both stayed on the pitch. Dwyer would score one of his team’s late goals. Robinson ranted post-game that his defender had suffered a broken jaw on that play, contributing to a significant drop in performance and, in turn, the Kansas City comeback.

On a positive note for the losers, Vancouver has set aside worries that they can’t score. They’ve netted 14 goals in the past four league matches, and suddenly boast the second-best offence in the Western Conference. Worrying, however, is the fact that, including the Canadian Championship game against the Montreal Impact last week, the Whitecaps have squandered three two-goal leads in two games.

As for Sporting Kansas City, they’re now unbeaten in three and boast the best points-per-game record in Major League Soccer.

Sporting KC’s next match is on Wednesday, August 19, when they host the woeful San Jose Earthquakes. Vancouver hopes to get back in the win column when FC Dallas visits on Saturday, August 22.

Vancouver Whitecaps 2-2 Columbus Crew: Five takeaways

Vancouver Whitecaps and Columbus Crew got Week 6’s action underway with the first midweek clash of the new MLS season on Wednesday night in a highly entertaining game that ended 2-2 at BC Place.

The Whitecaps came into the game on a win streak of four but had to settle for a valuable point after coming from behind twice to earn a share of the spoils.

Kei Kamara grabbed both of the Crew’s goals, with Octavio Rivero netting again for the Whitecaps and Darren Mattocks netting the all-important second equaliser.

Here are five takeaways from the game:

1. Mattocks makes his mark

Carl Robinson decided the time was right to start Jamaican international Darren Mattocks on Wednesday, as the pacey forward started on the left in place of Kekuta Manneh, and he didn’t disappoint. Mattocks grabbed a goal and an assist and was named as Man of the Match in his first start of the year. He was full of energy and contributed to the defensive side of the game as well as attacking, and improved dramatically when Manneh entered the game on 56 minutes. He could have had a hat-trick on the night as he recorded seven shots, one of which cannoned off the post with the game level at 2-2. Vancouver’s forward line looks strong.

2. Columbus will be O-Kei

Kei Kamara in action for the Columbus Crew against Vancouver Whitecaps

Columbus Crew have had a less than convincing start to the 2015 season, winning just one of their opening four games but Wednesday night’s performance against the best side in MLS right now will leave Gregg Berhalter pleased. Federico Higuain missed the game through suspension but Kei Kamara didn’t suffer without the playmaker as he netted both of the Crew’s goals. Kamara now has three in four and looks sharp in and around goal. Expect the Crew to start climbing the Eastern Conference now.

3. Role reversals

Coming into this game, the Crew were the top side in MLS in terms of average possession per game, while the Whitecaps were the worst, seeing less of the ball than anyone else after five weeks. But that all changed on Wednesday as the ‘Caps dominated the game for large spells. Vancouver had 62% of the possession and showed a more controlling side to their game, while the Crew proved they can be just as effective as a counter-attacking side. These teams are two of the more exciting in MLS and proved they can play more than one way to good effect on Wednesday night.

4. Shall we just give Rivero the Golden Boot now?

Octavio Rivero in action for the Vancouver Whitecaps against Columbus Crew

Octavio Rivero added his fifth goal of the season against the Crew to keep him at the top of the goalscoring charts at this early stage and the Uruguayan forward looks unstoppable in and around goal. He picked up the March Player of the Month award in his first month in MLS and has recorded more shots, and shots on goal than any other player in the league. The Whitecaps are playing well and Rivero is looking like an incredible piece of business as he can’t stop finding the net. Expect him to continue his goalscoring form when the Whitecaps travel to San Jose on Saturday.

5. Is this the turning point for entertainment in MLS this season?

The 2015 season hasn’t hit full flow yet as there have been several cagey displays by teams and nowhere near enough goals (we’re looking at you Colorado) but that changed on Wednesday. The ‘Caps and Crew played out one of the best games of the season so far at BC Place as there were a combined 37 shots on goal at either end. Both teams attacked from the outset and that lead to a free-flowing, entertaining game that we usually see more of across the league. This was a hopefully a sign of things to come as Week 6 got off to a fun start. Bring on the weekend!

Toronto need penalties to see off resolute Whitecaps

Toronto FC advanced to the Amway Canadian Championship final after beating the Vancouver Whitecaps 5-3 in a penalty shootout at BC Place last night.

The pair couldn’t be separated, with the aggregate score 3-3 after 210 minutes of action over the two legs, and penalties were needed to send Toronto through to face the Montreal Impact in the final.

Jermain Defoe didn’t feature as he watched on from the bench, as Luke Moore started his first game for the club alongside Brazilian striker Gilberto.

Vancouver trailed 2-1 from the first-leg, and their task got a lot more difficult inside the opening five minutes, as Toronto took an early lead through Doneil Henry.

Henry looked to be offside as he tapped in, following a Michael Bradley free-kick that was headed onto the bar by Whitecaps defender Nick Hagglund.

The early setback meant Vancouver had to attack Toronto, and they did just that, registering 25 shots during the game.

They got the equaliser just before halftime, as Erik Hurtado’s strike levelled it up following a great chip over the defence by Chilean midfielder Pedro Morales.

The Whitecaps pressed for the second goal that would tie the aggregate score and Kekuta Manneh had a good chance to do so, but for Reds goalkeeper Joe Bendik, who charged down the young Gambian.

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(Photo: Joe Bendik made some vital saves to keep Toronto in the game)

Vancouver eventually got the goal they desperately searched for, as Henry brought down Hurtado in the box to allow Morales to score from the penalty spot.

Toronto had the best chances to win the match in extra-time but neither side could get that elusive goal and penalties were needed to decide the tie.

The Reds scored all five of their penalties to advance, with Kekuta Manneh the unlucky Whitecap to miss, as Joe Bendik saved another one of his efforts.

Toronto will face Montreal in the two-legged final starting in two weeks as they aim to get their hands on their fifth Canadian Championship title against the current holders.

The Impact edged past FC Edmonton in the final seconds of the other semi-final, winning 4-2 on the night, with the winner coming from a controversial penalty in the 97th minute to send the MLS club through 5-4 on aggregate.