TRANSFER TRACKER STATUS: Trade
- SJ receive: Jonathan Mensah
- CLB receive: Up to $500k in GAM ($200k GAM guaranteed)
The San Jose Earthquakes have added a high-end MLS center back before head coach Luchi Gonzalez’s first year in charge, announcing Friday they’ve acquired Jonathan Mensah in a trade with the Columbus Crew.
In return, Columbus have received up to $500,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) – $200k is guaranteed across the next two seasons, while $300k is conditional – for Mensah, who's in the last year of his contract. The conditional game breaks down as $150k/year if he's on San Jose's roster for the 2024 and 2025 Roster Compliance Dates.
Mensah, a 32-year-old Ghana international, has been in the league since 2017 and donned the captain’s armband in Columbus. He won MLS Cup 2020 with the Crew and earned MLS Best XI presented by Continental Tire honors that year, plus finished third overall in 2020 MLS Defender of the Year voting.
San Jose fit
Crucially, Mensah joins San Jose after center back Nathan suffered a right ACL injury in a preseason scrimmage. He’ll likely partner with Rodrigues, who’s on loan from Brazilian Serie A side Grêmio through the summer.
"Nathan’s unfortunate injury left a significant hole at a precarious time in our preseason that we didn’t hesitate to address quickly," Earthquakes general manager Chris Leitch said in a release. "We knew we needed to bring in a player of significant quality and experience to compete at the highest level in MLS.
"We feel very fortunate and excited to bring in Jonathan, who has been named MLS Best XI, has captained an MLS Cup-winning side, and who knows what it takes to perform and be a leader for a competitive team in MLS. His leadership and success in Major League Soccer will be invaluable to our squad as we approach the 2023 regular season and his qualities as a human being will positively impact our organization and community."
Mensah, a veteran of the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups with Ghana, has 70 international appearances. He has 7g/3a in 159 MLS appearances, playing for ex-Russian Premier League side Anzhi Makhachkala before emerging as an on- and off-field leader with the Crew.
Mensah also continues a pattern of San Jose acquiring MLS-experienced players in trades since Leitch took over. Star striker Jeremy Ebobisse arrived in August 2021 from the Portland Timbers for $1.167 million in GAM, while midfielder Jamiro Monteiro arrived in February 2022 from the Philadelphia Union for up to $450k in GAM.
Columbus next steps
As Mensah departs, Columbus’ lead remaining center backs are Josh Williams and Australian international Milos Degenek. There’s some depth via college soccer alums Philip Quinton and Keegan Hughes, who are both entering their first MLS season.
Columbus are expected to pursue a new backline anchor heading into new head coach Wilfried Nancy’s first season on the sidelines. But there's an undoubted leadership void, combined with previous core pieces like midfielder Artur (trade to Houston Dynamo FC), wide player Pedro Santos (free agency to D.C. United) and forward Derrick Etienne Jr. (free agency to Atlanta United) also leaving this winter.
"Above all, we want to thank Jonathan for his contributions to the Crew and the Columbus community on-and-off the field since joining the club in 2017," Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in a release.
"He is truly the consummate professional, a great teammate and an even better person. Jonathan will always remain an important part of our club’s history, including winning MLS Cup 2020 together, and we wish him and his wife Kafui all the best in the future. This opportunity materialized and we felt it would give us flexibility to promote players from within the club and add new players from the outside, in the short term and long term.”
San Jose, who open their 2023 slate on Feb. 25 at Atlanta United (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass), have also brought in DP midfielder Carlos Gruezo (from Bundesliga’s Augsburg) and TAM-level goalkeeper Daniel (from Brazil’s Internacional) this offseason.
Columbus, meanwhile, are visiting the Union for a Matchday 1 clash on Feb. 25 (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass). Their offseason has been quieter, highlighted by striker Christian Ramirez arriving in a transfer from Scotland’s Aberdeen.
Both clubs missed the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs. Columbus finished eighth in the Eastern Conference, while San Jose placed last in the Western Conference (14th place).
READ MORE: MLS Transfer Tracker presented by Avant