COLUMBUS, Ohio — The trade that brought midfielder Tony Tchani to the Columbus Crew on Friday was one that was made with offense in mind.
“He can probably add to our attack coming through the midfield,” Crew technical director Brian Bliss said. “He’s a Generation Adidas player that I think can be good for us not only now but in the future. He can be one of our core players.”
The Crew have seen Tchani’s attacking potential up close. The 22-year-old, who is in his second MLS season from the University of Virginia, has two goals in 42 career MLS matches and both came against Columbus.
Tchani scored the first MLS goal on May 20, 2010 when he played for the New York Red Bulls, the club that drafted him in 2010. His second came on April 23, 2011 for Toronto FC — three weeks after being part of a trade that sent Dwayne De Rosario to RBNY. The latter goal will be remembered more for his celebration with the TFC fans in the stands at BMO Field that led to a second yellow card and a subsequent ejection.
Bliss believes the lanky Cameroonian can pair with Nigerian midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo in the heart of the Columbus midfield.
“The idea would be to play those two guys together,” Bliss said. “Ekpo has shown in the last six months he can handle the defensive responsibilities as well as contribute to the offense and I think Tony can do a little bit of that as well. Both of them working together side-by-side, you can get some offensive thrusts and still have the coverage from one guy.”
In order to acquire Tchani, the Crew gave up defender Andy Iro and midfielder Leandre Griffit to Toronto FC.
The 26-year-old Iro was the sixth overall pick in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft by the Crew and has appeared in 58 matches during his four-year Crew career. He was a fixture during the 2010 season but a nagging groin injury and the acquisition of Julius James in February proved his undoing. James has gone on to start all but two matches alongside Chad Marshall and earned a contract extension last week.
Also, the return last week of Danny O’Rourke after missing the first 16 matches because of offseason knee surgery provided depth at center back and made Iro expendable. Rookie Rich Balchan can play at center back as well.
“Iro is a very good pro,” manager Robert Warzycha said. “He played very well for us, but to acquire Tony, you have to give up something. It’s not like Toronto was asking for somebody else. They asked for Iro.”
Griffit scored three minutes into his MLS debut, which came two months after the 27-year-old signed with the club last year. He played in more CONCACAF Champions League matches (five) than league games (three) for Columbus and he made just one appearance this season.
The Frenchman missed the last seven games with an abdomen strain and was put on the injured reserve list last week and must remain there four more games.
The trade leaves the Crew at the maximum of 30 players under contract, but they are one below the maximum for active players because defender Josh Williams is on injured reserve.