And other ripple effects from Crew SC's big week of transfers
Crew SC's front office was extremely busy leading up to last week's MLS transfer deadline. When all was said and done Columbus had gained a potential star, given up a fan favorite and positioned itself for another flurry of activity this offseason.
Most of the moves seemed designed to create options and resources for next year's roster. Trades with New England and Philadelphia yielded two international roster spots and nearly half a million dollars to spend on players in 2018. Shipping midfielder Ethan Finlay to his native Minnesota — from a sentimental standpoint, the most significant transaction of the lot — netted some 2017 allocation money plus more than a quarter million for 2018.
At least one deal was geared toward winning now: reportedly paying more than $2 million to Portuguese club SC Braga for the rights to 29-year-old midfielder Pedro Santos. He'll join Federico Higuain and Jonathan Mensah as the club's third Designated Player and will be tasked with electrifying Columbus' offense from the wing, where Finlay's spark had smoldered in recent years.
In comments to media last week, Columbus coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter cited Santos' knack for converting offensive chances: “When you talk about making the final pass, making the final shot, he has that ability.”
Given Crew SC's chronic struggles with finishing this season — goalmouth errors have cost this club a lot of points, and even Saturday's 3-1 win over Chicago should have been more like 7-1 — a player like that could be what sixth-place Columbus needs to move beyond its treacherous dance with the playoff qualification line.
As recently as 2015, when Crew SC came within a goal of winning MLS Cup, Finlay was that kind of player. But he's been in a funk the past two seasons, so a change of scenery makes sense, especially considering Santos' arrival, plus increased playing time for Finlay's former backup, Kekuta Manneh. Still, it's never easy to say goodbye to a former All-Star who's played his entire career with your club, as evidenced by the outpouring of tributes from Finlay's coaches and teammates last week.
Having said their goodbyes, those who remain must spend the next two months fighting for their playoff lives. If they fail, after acquiring so much allocation money at the transfer deadline, at least Columbus supporters can look forward to a free agency shopping spree this winter.