As the self-appointed Massive Report resident fashion expert, I’d like to talk to you today about soccer jerseys. Buying a team’s jersey can be a very big fan commitment. Apart from season tickets, it can be one of the bigger financial investments in a sports team a fan can make. It shows a level of commitment that goes beyond a t-shirt or hoodie, it’s the promise ring of sports fandom. And like promise rings, many team jerseys have been bought rather hastily and with some eventual regret. I myself have had a terrible history with them (buying replica soccer jerseys, not promise rings).
So let’s take a few minutes and see if we can’t find a couple of Columbus Crew SC names we could feel confident putting on the back of one of those new soccer jerseys. I will rank a player’s jersey-worthiness based on a few factors:
Skill (perceived or proven): Obviously you’d like someone who contributes positively to the team.
Longterm viability: This is a relatively large investment, and you don’t want to shell out $150 for a jersey with a player who’s not long for the club. We’re looking for multi-year Crew contributors.
History with club: A club legend can always be a good choice. Especially because that fake soccer jersey can become timeless. A McBride or Schelotto kit can last you until the number falls off (wash inside out, don’t put in the dryer, never use fabric softener to prevent those from falling off).
Number: A lot of us have number partiality. Whether it was the number you wore in high school, your kid’s birthday or lucky number can influence your choice.
Name: A cool name cannot be overlooked. Are you someone who likes a first name on the back? Do you share a name with a player? This can help extend the viability of a jersey purchase.
So let’s go in number order (focussing on those who might see consistent playing time this season) and determine which players are worthy of buying their 2020 Crew jerseys?
No. 1: Eloy Room (goalkeeper): Room has done a fantastic job filling in the shoes of Zack Steffen. The Curaçao National Team goalkeeper stepped up as one of the best goalies in MLS, so skill is definitely there. At 31, it’s hard to see him leaving anytime soon, but he also is a relative newcomer and does not have a long-term history with the team. From a number standpoint, you can’t get much cooler than No. 1, and while you can’t get actual goalkeeper kits, I hereby deem Eloy Room worthy.
No. 2: Chris Cadden (wing back): A Scottish player acquired last summer then immediately sent on loan, Cadden has made a fairly significant early impact for the Crew. Somewhat diverse in the ability, he does exhibit some potential skill. As another newcomer (albeit much younger than Room at 23), his history with the Black & Gold is very limited, and his future is still tough to determine. A potential blue-chip buy that could just as easily look ridiculous in a couple of years, wait a while before you put No. 2 on your back.
No. 3: Josh Williams (defender): A supporters’ section favorite, Williams did a yeoman’s job filling in multiple defensive spots last year during injury struggles. A 31-year-old jack-of-all (defensive)-trades, he most likely won’t find a ton of time in a starting 11 unless someone is hurt. That being said, he is a local (Copley, Ohio) product and an overall great guy in his interaction with fans. He may not be the hottest name, but you could do much worse than Josh Williams.
No. 4: Jonathan Mensah (center back): The newly-named captain is one of the more familiar and consistent names in the starting 11 this year. The 29 year old is not going anywhere anytime soon and the leadership role does put him in a select few in club history. He is also one of the few Crew players who puts his first name on the back of his soccer jersey. So, if you’re named Jonathan, you’re in luck!
No. 5: Vito Wormgoor (center back): It’s hard not to like this guy. The 6-foot-2 Dutch international is a newcomer to the Crew, but he made a noticeable impact in his debut. He somehow makes the man-bun look tough and intimidating, has a killer first and last name (put either on the back), and No. 5 is a solid number. At 31, and a new benchmark signing, it’s fair to say that he will be around for a while.
No. 6: Darlington Nagbe (central midfield): A former player of Caleb Porter, Nagbe was the first big name acquired in a busy offseason for the Crew. He most likely won’t rack up huge offensive stats, but he will definitely be integral in the Black & Gold’s success. Additionally, Nagbe is from Lakewood, Ohio and went to college in Akron, so any Northeastern Ohio transplants in Columbus may relate strongly to Nagbe. At 29, Nagbe is on the relative back-end of his career but Columbus is his third MLS stop in nine years, so there is always the possibility of trade within the league. But Nagbe is one of Porter’s go-to’s, so it’s unlikely.
No. 7: Pedro Santos (winger): Santos had something of a realization of potential last season. A big-splash signing before 2017, Santos took a couple of seasons, and Federico Higuain’s injury to truly bloom. This year, the Portuguese playmaker has had moments of brilliance but hasn’t quite connected. At 31, Santos will most likely see the rest of his serviceable soccer career in the black and gold. Plus he wears lucky number 7.
No. 8: Artur (defensive midfield): The young Brazillian was extremely consistent for Columbus last season, and thus far he doesn’t seem to be slowing down. But that might make it tough to consider Artur a long-term jersey-worthy candidate. While the single name has appeal, and No. 8 is a pretty solid number, you run the risk of him leaving sometime relatively soon for a big financial haul for the Crew.
No. 9: Fanendo Adi (Striker): The recent acquisition had a tough year on and off the field for FC Cincinnati last season. And while he has proven in the past to be a relatively prolific goal scorer, he will only get spot service to cover Gyasi Zardes when he is out. Probably not a name you’d want, quite yet.
No. 10: Lucas Zelarayan (attacking midfielder): The biggest name (with the biggest price tag) the Crew has ever brought in. The Argentine was acquired to be the star of the show, and in the first two games, he certainly hasn’t disappointed. The No. 10 is always a favorite for cheap soccer jerseys, and Zelarayan is definitely a cool name. Probably the biggest seller this year.
No. 11: Gyasi Zardes (striker): A consistent presence on the United States Men’s National Team, Zardes maybe the most well-known player for the Crew. He has the potential to be an offensive leader on both the Black & Gold and the USMNT team, but his less-than-productive season might make you wonder. At 28 and one of the Crew’s Designated Players, his future with the club is relatively certain.
No. 12: Luis Diaz (winger): The young prospect has shown signs of brilliance in his limited playing time these last two seasons. He shows tons of potential (albeit, still untapped at times), but the Costa Rican International is only 21. His bright future may extend a few more years with the Crew, but may ultimately see him sold if things really take off. Still too soon to say, and his future is uncertain.
No. 13: Milton Valenzuela (wing back): Another young talent with ton of potential, Valenzuela made an immediate splash his first season with the club two years ago. Unfortunately, he lost last season to injury. While he has made an impact this season, injuries still continue to plague him. The left back has tons of potential if he can consistently stay healthy. I would hold off a while before taking the plunge with Valenzuela.
No. 14: Harrison Afful (wing back): Another one of the Crew’s longest-tenured players, Afful looks to have somewhat of a resurgence after last season’s jaw injury slowed him down. The 33 year old probably is not a four-five year player, but he also isn’t going anywhere. He is also the other member of the Black & Gold using his first name on the back of his jersey.
No. 15: Aboubacar Keita (center back): The very young Westerville native is probably the hottest prospect in the Crew’s system. Keita is probably a deep cut for a soccer jersey replica, but might eventually become a Homegrown favorite. It’d be risky, but so is Keita.
No. 16: Youness Mokhtar (winger): Mokhtar was a new international signing halfway through last season. Since making his Crew debut, the Dutch winger has been less than effective. Luis Diaz could very possibly usurp Mokhtar in the starting 11.