OBETZ, Ohio – Harrison Afful’s future in Columbus is far from guaranteed, but after just six appearances for Columbus Crew SC, he’s already thinking about creating a legacy.
The Ghanaian international says his deal with the club only lasts through the end of this season, but he hopes that’s not the end of his time in Columbus.
“I just hope I’ll be here for longer than this year and help the club to achieve trophies, that’s what’s important,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “When you’re playing in a team, you just have to leave a legacy. That’s what I’m hoping, and I’m praying to be injury-free, and when I’m selected to play I’ll go all-out.”
A Crew SC spokesman declined to comment on Afful's contract status, referencing league and club policy regarding contract terms.
Right back has been a revolving door for Crew SC for the past two seasons. The position is one of the most important in Gregg Berhalter’s offense, which relies heavily on attack-oriented fullbacks to distribute to playmakers like Kei Kamara and Ethan Finlay.
But Afful, who joined the club this summer, follows Josh Williams, Eric Gehrig, Hector Jimenez, Chad Barson, Hernan Grana and Chris Klute as players who have made appearances in the spot under Berhalter.
Afful, however, hopes to provide some stability.
“I’m not here just for a short time, even though it’s a short contract,” he said. “I’m hoping they will come out with something. I’m happy to be part of this group. I just hope we’ll come out with a long-term contract.”
In his first six appearances, Afful has already made a difference.
Though Columbus lost 2-1 to the Portland Timbers last weekend, Berhalter thinks Afful’s abilities helped influence Timbers’ coach Caleb Porter’s lineup.
“They had an option to go with [Lucas] Melano, who’s a very attacking-oriented player, or [Rodney] Wallace, who’s a left back by nature,” Berhalter said. “They went with the defensive option. I think that says a lot about Harrison and what he’s able to do.”
Afful’s combination play with Finlay and his service to Kamara make him more dangerous than most defenders, and Finlay says it’s allowed him more space.
“It makes a team have to kind of pick or choose what they’re going to do,” Finlay said. “They can’t have one guy marking me and another guy marking the space in behind. They have to be aware that if they give that up and allow that space… Harrison is going to beat their midfielders 90 percent of the time.”
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Afful says he’s confident in his talent, which made the transition to Crew SC easier. But even he didn’t expect to be contributing so much by this point.
“The group started before I came in, and I’m really happy I’ve adapted to the system and everything is being successful for me," he said. "I didn’t even think I would get this far [this year]. … Playing in a new team, I didn’t even start with them in the preseason or anything, so coming in in the middle of the end of the season, it’s not that easy.”
It may not be easy, but Afful’s transition has been seamless, and Crew SC fans will be hoping he gets the long-term contract he’s looking for in the offseason.
“Everything has moved very fast,” he said. “I give the credit to the coaches and everybody. They’ve prepared me really well, and it’s been great. So I’m just looking forward to more games.”