On a day full of wheeling and dealing, Columbus Crew SC stood relatively pat.
The first day of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft saw quite a few teams engineer trades involving the two forms of allocation money. In the first round alone, seven moves took place including five over the course of the first ten picks. But Columbus was not among the teams looking to trade up. Instead, they made their three selections on the day from their original spots.
The club spent their lone first round pick on goalkeeper Ben Lundgaard out of Virginia Tech. In round two, they took forward Edward Opoku from Lundgaard’s in-state rival Virginia along with midfielder Jake Rozhansky from Maryland. What do these three prospects bring to the team and how might they fit in its plans heading into the 2018 season?
Columbus Crew SC 2018 MLS SuperDraft Day One Review
First Round (21st overall): Ben Lundgaard, goalkeeper, Virginia Tech
This one’s a bit of a head-scratcher. Crew SC is about as set as any team in the league at goalkeeper, with Zack Steffen having started every single game across all competitions last season. The club also brought in Jon Kempin as a backup and re-signed last year’s fourth round pick Logan Ketterer. Drafting Lundgaard might be an indication that there’s going to be some preseason competition behind Steffen at the position.
Lundgaard certainly possesses the tools to make an impact. The Wilmington, DE native stands a towering 6’5″ and certainly ended his collegiate career on a high note. He posted a combined 14 shutouts during his junior and senior seasons with the Hokies, earning first team all-ACC honors in 2017. In addition, he earned a clean sheet in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament in a 2-0 win over Air Force.
The consensus coming out of the Combine was that Lundgaard was among the players who improved his draft stock. It’s probably a reason he ended up vaulting into the first round. He boasts impressive shot-stopping ability and despite his size, is immensely athletic. It shows in his ability to quickly get down to the ground and make fingertip saves to his right and left.
Second Round (32nd overall): Edward Opoku, forward, Virginia
No matter what sport, there are always draft prospects who slip and inevitably go later than expected. Opoku certainly fits this mold. One of eight players in this year’s draft class signed to Generation Adidas contracts, there certainly was the possibility that he’d hear his name called in round one. But he struggled during the Combine and ended up being the second to last GA prospect to get drafted.
But that’s not to say there isn’t promise. The diminutive Ghanaian finished his collegiate career with 16 goals and nine assists during his three seasons with the Cavaliers. His final season was his best, totaling a career high eight scores and four helpers. On the ball, Opoku exhibits good change of pace and is not afraid to take opposing defenders on. Though his touch in evading those players in the final third needs work, he has all the makings of an Emmanuel Boateng kind of player who can do damage from wide areas if he develops.
Opoku joins a sizable contingent of players from Ghana on the Crew SC roster. It includes defenders Harrison Afful, Jonathan Mensah and Lalas Abubakar as well as defensive midfielder Mohammed Abu. He’s also the second Ghanaian drafted in as many years after the club took Abubakar in the first round of the 2017 SuperDraft. Overall, the Black and Gold are hoping they get good value in drafting Opoku where they did.
Second Round (44th overall): Jake Rozhansky, midfielder, Maryland
Columbus already has significant connections with Maryland soccer as Steffen and Homegrown center back Alex Crognale played collegiately with the Terps. Rozhansky’s short-term status with the club is a little less certain though. He recently signed with Maccabi Netanya in the Israeli league. Ironically enough, former Crew SC forward Aaron Schoenfeld played there for a short time before moving to Hapoel Tel Aviv and later Maccabi Tel Aviv.
The 21-year-old attacking mid played at Virginia before transferring to Maryland. His playmaking quality was on full display in College Park where he registered 17 assists over the previous two seasons. It included nine in 2017 which was good enough for second in the Big Ten behind Chris Mueller’s absurd total of 20. For now, it appears as if his immediate future is elsewhere though he could be in the club’s plans down the line.