The King Afful is coming to Major League Soccer to become The King of MLS. On Thursday, Columbus Crew SC announced that they had signed Ghanaian international defender Harrison Afful to a Discovery Player deal. As per league policy exact terms and figures on the deal were not immediately disclosed.
Afful comes to Crew SC from Tunisian club side Espserance Sportive de Tunis. He has made over 147 appearances for The Mkachka and helped the side win the 2011 CAF Champions League as well as three Tunisian league titles. Afful is a product of the Feyernoord Youth Academy system and has previously spent time with Helsingborg in Sweden.
In addition to his club career, Afful has also made 58 appearances with the Ghanaian national team. Mostly serving as a fullback with the Black Stars, Afful helped Ghana place second at the 2015 African Cup of Nations. He was also just called in for Ghana’s recent friendly against Mauritania. With a move to a higher profile league Afful should factor into Ghana’s plans for 2018 World Cup qualification.
Despite sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference (8-7-7, 31points) Columbus’ defense has left a little to be desired. The club has allowed 33 goals this season, which is the second highest in the league. In particular the club has struggled at right-back with coach Gregg Berhalter using a “by committee” approach. The addition of Afful coupled with the return of defensive midfielder Wil Trapp will help plug some of the holes in their defense.
In terms of how Afful fits in with Berhalter’s style of play he is very comfortable with going forward and serving as an extra attacker. The Feyernoord academy system likes to use left and right backs to stretch defenses to open up play. Afful scored 17 goals for Esperance during his tenure there and has shown with the Ghanaian national team that he can open up the attack for number nines and tens. Having someone who can make runs to the back post and provide service for Kei Kamara (15 goals) and Ethan Finlay (7 goals) should strengthen an already potent Crew SC attack.
Afful still needs to procure his P-1 visa to officially join the team so it is unlikely that he will feature for Crew SC against their rivals Orlando City SC (8/1 7:30PM). But once he does become eligible he will make an instant impact with the squad and may prove to be a difference-maker come MLS Playoff time.