Columbus Crew SC sign Ghanaian international center back Jonathan Mensah

Jonathan Mensah - Ghana - World Cup 2014

Columbus Crew SC made a major move to bolster their backline Tuesday, announcing that they've signed 26-year-old Ghanaian defender Jonathan Mensah as a Designated Player.

A two-time World Cup veteran who has earned 51 caps with Ghana, Mensah comes to Columbus after spending the last year with Anzhi Makhachkala in the Russian Premier League. Prior to moving to Russia, the center back spent parts of five seasons with FC Evian in France’s Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 and one year with Granada FC, helping the Spanish club earn promotion to La Liga. Mensah began his pro career in Ghana with the Free State Stars. To date, he’s made 127 appearances on the club level.

Mensah will slot into a Columbus backline that is down two key pieces from the 2016 season; Michael Parkhurst was traded to Atlanta in December and fellow center back Gaston Sauro will reportedly miss all of 2017 due to injuries.

“We are pleased to announce the signing of central defender Jonathan Mensah as a Designated Player,” Crew SC sporting director and head coach Gregg Berhalter said in a statement released by the club. “Jonathan is a physically dominant central defender who at a young age has already proven himself on the world’s biggest stage. We look forward to him making an immediate impact in Columbus.”

Mensah started every group stage match for Ghana at the 2014 World Cup. He also featured for the Black Stars at the 2010 tournament in South Africa, starting twice in the group stage and playing the full 120 minutes in the country’s 2-1 win over the US in the Round of 16. And he played a pivotal role in Ghana’s run to the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations final, playing every minute of every match at the competition.

Mensah joins midfielder Federico Higuain as the second Designated Player on Crew SC’s roster. He’s also the second Ghanaian international defender on Columbus’ backline, following right back Harrison Afful.

“One of our offseason priorities was to sign a second Designated Player that has the ability to make an impact both on and off the field,” said Berhalter. “With Jonathan's vast playing experience and strong character we believe he will fit into our club nicely. We are pleased that Jonathan chose Columbus as a place to continue his development. I want to thank [Crew SC owner] Mr. Precourt for his support in making the transaction possible as we build a strong club for 2017 and beyond.”