In one preseason moment, the hopes and dreams of a season came crashing down. Nathan tore his ACL, leaving the Quakes without their best defender. Rather than accept defeat, Chris Leitch pulled off one of the most impressive traders in recent MLS memory.
After that heartbreaking moment, fans could have expected the front office to capitulate. Instead, Leitch traded for Columbus Crew icon Jonathan Mensah.
Mensah is an upgrade on Nathan as weird as that may sound. The team has replaced an excellent defender with an MLS cup winning captain. Not many players have Mensah’s resume, so his addition can transform the Quake’s backline.
Leitch pulled off an excellent trade, but there’s sure to be some interesting questions for the team going into next season. This is Nathan’s second major injury in back to back seasons, so questions have to be asked about his future in San Jose. Despite being a great defender, Mensah will turn 33 this season, meaning he will not be part of the team’s long term plans.
In a refreshing manner, San Jose has had their best winter transfer window in years. This Mensah deal should give fans hope going into next season.
Joining MLS in 2017, Mensah has become one of the league’s best defenders. In his five years, he has helped Columbus win an MLS Cup and show that they deserved to stay in the city.
By far one of the best passing center backs in MLS, Mensah will give the Quakes’ backline some much needed help. Last season, Mensah showed his ability to mix volume with accuracy. He attempted over 58 passes per game with a passing completion of 88.6%.
While Nathan’s passing stats are close to Mensah’s numbers, no other regular starter had numbers that came close. Nathan’s injury will sideline him for the whole season, so Mensah can fill that hole. His ability to pass out the back should help out the midfield and get play started faster.
Mensah may not match Nathan’s immense passion that he puts in every tackle. However, he is still a good clearer of the ball. In addition, he wins on average 2.66 aerial duels, so he’s a threat to any cross in the box.
Another area where Mensah is elite amongst MLS defenders is his goal scoring ability. While his numbers, on face value, aren’t eye catching, it’s his willingness to shoot that’s impressive. Given his passing prowess, it makes sense that he would be so involved in the attack.
There’s a lot to support the notion that Mensah is the perfect replacement for Nathan. He is an excellent passer who can put in crunching tackles.
Nathan’s injury and Mensah’s transfer will force the team into a potentially uncomfortable situation next season. Given how much they’ve invested into the backline, it’s hard to see them both return.
This is Nathan’s second serious injury in back to back seasons, which fairly or not, raises questions about his long term fitness. He has failed to play a full season and now, Nathan’s likely to only return next year. Leitch and the front office may not want to hand him a new contract if he can’t stay on the field.
Nathan’s absence leaves a void of leadership in the squad. The energy and passion he brings to every game gives his teammates the belief that they can win any game. For those reasons, he has leverage, as no one else can do what he does.
On the other hand, Mensah is a better player than Nathan and has winning MLS experience. He may not be the voice of a team, but Mensah can offer more in the build up. Having already led a team to a MLS Cup, he is a win now player.
Mensah is almost 33 years old, so he doesn’t really fit into the youth movement. In addition, he is more valuable to a side looking to contend for a title now. For those reasons, it may be more of the Quakes needing to prove to Mensah that they are serious.
Both players offer the Quakes something the club desperately needs. They both deserve a chance with the club for another season, but it may not be possible to keep them next year.
Mensah has the chance to be the Quake’s best defender in recent memory, as Nathan rehabs. However, this will bring an important debate next season on which of the two has a future at the club. For fans who weren’t expecting much fomo this window, Mensah’s addition should give the team so much help.
Featured image: Columbus Dispatch