2023 MLS SuperDraft grades: Columbus Crew

FBL-COLUMBUS-CREW-CRUZ-AZUL. Jeff Dean/GettyImages
FBL-COLUMBUS-CREW-CRUZ-AZUL. Jeff Dean/GettyImages / JEFF DEAN/GettyImages
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Round 1: Pick 27=D Xavier Zengue (Dayton) (trade with HOU)

Columbus then jumped back into the first round in a trade with the ultra busy Houston Dynamo. The Crew sent $50k in GAM (all of it being 2023 GAM) for the 27th pick. Columbus then used the pick to select Zengue, one of the top centerbacks on the board, out of Dayton.

Zengue led a Dayton backline that kept seven clean sheets in matches Zengue appeared in this year. Overall for his career, he appeared in 57 matches (with 51 starts) across his four years in Dayton. He scored two goals in that span, while also adding eight assists (five of which came in his freshman season in 2019).

Zengue has some qualities to like on the backline. While he doesn't have elite size (6'0), he does have really nice skill. With CB being one of the usually top performing positions you can pick in the draft, and Zengue being one of the better ones in the draft, I think landing Zengue at the end of the first round is good value.

Also, a potential twist to this pick is that with left-back being a big need for Columbus, it wouldn't surprise me if Columbus tries to play Zengue at LB and see if he can earn minutes there this season. I think Zengue definitely has the potential to eventually become a starter on the backline for Columbus, and his lack of elite height would be less of an issue.

In terms of value on the trade to acquire the pick, I believe that $50k is solid value. You don't usually see teams trading outright for picks at the backend of the first round, so it can be difficult to gauge whether this was good value. However, $50k in GAM is not onerous, and is definitely worth it if you land a difference maker (which Zengue has a chance to be).

MLSSoccer.com's Tyler Clark had Zengue ranked as the #6 centerback in the class.

  • Pick/Trade Grade: A-

Round 2: Pick 43=MF Clay Holstad (Kentucky)

Columbus then picked up a strong midfielder (to round out picking a player from all three lines with their three picks) out of Kentucky with their final pick of the draft (their natural selection in the second round) in Holstad.

Holstad is one of the top central midfielders in the draft. He can play both the 6 and the 8. It'll be tough to eke out minutes with the first team this season with the likes of Darlington Nagbe and Aidan Morris in Columbus. However the trade of Artur earlier this offseason does open up minutes.

It wouldn't surprise me if Holstad spends some of this season with Columbus Crew II with an eye towards the future (and the hope that he can eventually takeover a consistent role in the central midfield). Columbus could view Holstad and Aidan Morris as a long-term central midfield duo. However, Holstad might be able to earn some minutes in the Crew midfield this season.

This past season at Kentucky, Holstad scored one goal and added four assists. Holstad helped lead the Wildcats to a 15-1-5 record and the third round of the NCAA tournament. For his career, he scored five goals and contributed seven assists in a whopping 85 matches at UK.

One thing potentially working against Holstad is that he used his Covid-year eligibility, which means that he was in college for five years, leaving him a year older than most prospects. However, I like this pick, and I think it is good value.

  • Pick Grade: B

FULL DRAFT GRADE: B

Overall, I think it was a productive draft for Columbus. They picked up three players that could push for some minutes this season. While I don't think all three will end up getting consistent minutes this season, I think at least one of them will carve out some minutes. All in all, I think there's a chance all three picks stick around with the franchise for a couple of years in some way shape or form. Also, they made a trade that I think was good value as well. In total, it was a good night for the Crew.

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