Columbus Crew sign MLS veteran Jalil Anibaba for center back depth

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  • Jalil Anibaba
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Nov 23, 2021; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville SC defender Jalil Anibaba (3) celebrates after their win over Orlando City after a round one MLS Playoff game at Nissan Stadium. Nashville SC won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 23, 2021; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville SC defender Jalil Anibaba (3) celebrates after their win over Orlando City after a round one MLS Playoff game at Nissan Stadium. Nashville SC won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Crew finally have someone who can fill in behind starting center backs Jonathan Mensah and Josh Williams.

The Crew announced Friday they have signed 11-year MLS veteran Jalil Anibaba on a one-year deal, with an option for the 2023 season.

Anibaba joins the Crew following two seasons with Nashville SC where he played sparingly in a backup role. Anibaba played 1,216 minutes in 21 appearances (13 starts) with Nashville in 2020 and '21 combined. Overall, he has made 240 appearances (219 starts) and has played in nine playoff games with nine different teams in his career.

The Crew gained an experienced player who has shown he's capable of stepping in to a starting position. Since Caleb Porter was hired in 2019, the Crew haven't had much success when either of their starting center backs were unable to play. In Anibaba, they're hoping to have a guy who can play for Mensah or Williams when needed without the team's defensive performance dipping.

“Jalil is a veteran player with more than a decade of experience in MLS, and his addition to our roster will help bolster the backline,” Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko said in a statement. “Jalil is a leader on and off the field, and we’re pleased that a player with the breadth of his experience in MLS chose to sign with the Crew, and we look forward to having him join our team."

Aug 4, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Revolution forward Gustavo Bou (7) drives the ball against Nashville SC defender Jalil Anibaba (3) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 4, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Revolution forward Gustavo Bou (7) drives the ball against Nashville SC defender Jalil Anibaba (3) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

After the 2021 season, the Crew opted not to pick up the option on center back Vito Wormgoor's contract. They did pick up the option on center back Aboubacar Keita, but then traded him to the Colorado Rapids for $300,000 in general allocation money. The Crew also didn't re-sign center back Grant Lillard, who didn't play a game in two years with the club.

At 33, Anibaba doesn't help the Crew get any younger. But the team needed another experienced player at center back without any depth behind Mensah and Williams before the acquisition. Anibaba hasn't been a full-time starter in the league since 2018 with the New England Revolution.

Anibaba has also been an activist among the MLS player pool. He serves as an executive board member for the Black Players for Change organization.

jmyers@dispatch.com

@_jcmyers

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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus Crew sign MLS veteran Jalil Anibaba for center back depth

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