The Columbus Crew announced today that it has added three defenders ahead of the 2014 season by re-signing Josh Williams and adding Costa Rican leftback Waylon Francis and Columbus native Matt Wiet as the club’s sixth Homegrown Player. Williams and Wiet have been immediately added to the roster while Francis – who will occupy an international slot as a Discovery Signing – will be officially added to the club’s roster pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate (ITC) and P-1 Visa. Per Major League Soccer and club policy, details of the three contracts were not disclosed.
“This is exciting news for the club and all three players are strong additions to the team,” said Crew Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. “Josh is a player with experience and a lot of potential, and we’re excited to have him re-join the club knowing that he can develop into a high-level MLS player. Waylon and Matt also have bright futures. Waylon is an outstanding leftback and one of the best in the Costa Rican league, and he’s going to help on the left side of our defense. Matt is a talented young player from our youth development system that we look forward to working with soon.”
Williams has made 57 appearances – including 52 starts – since signing with the Black & Gold at the end of the 2010 season. His 2013 campaign saw him earn 27 appearances, mainly at rightback, recording three goals – the most of any Crew defender – all from set pieces. He scored his first goal of the season – and second career goal – on an 88th-minute tally at Chivas USA on March 2 before scoring his second goal of the year at D.C on March 23. His third tally of the season was his first career strike at Crew Stadium as the defender buried a Federico Higuain corner kick in the match against D.C. United on April 27. Williams is a native of Northeast Ohio and a product of Cleveland State University.
Francis joins the Crew from CS Herediano in Costa Rica’s topflight Primera Division. He began his professional career in the 2010-2011 summer campaign with Brujas FC, where he earned nine starts and recorded two assists at the age of 20. Staying in the Primera Division with Limón FC in the 2011-2012 summer campaign, Francis doubled his career appearances, making 18 starts. Most recently, the Puerto Limón, Costa Rica native then joined CS Herediano ahead of the 2012-2013 winter season. With CS Herediano, Francis made 65 regular-season appearances with the first-division squad and helped the club capture its second consecutive summer championship title in 2013, it’s 23rd in the Primera Division.
In two runs in the CONCACAF Champions League, Francis has made nine appearances and has faced MLS sides Real Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy, the latter of which Francis’ clubs squared-off against in the 2012-2013 Quarterfinals. Internationally, Francis earned his first career cap in group play of the 2013 Copa Centroamericana in the 2-0 win against Nicaragua on January 21, 2013 en route to Costa Rica’s seventh title, which launched the national side to the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Wiet – the Worthington Kilbourne High School graduate – joins the Crew after a stint with USL-PRO side Dayton Dutch Lions. With the signing, he becomes the Crew’s sixth Homegrown Player. In 2013, the Crew set a club record for the most Homegrown Players in a starting lineup when Matt Lampson, Chad Barson, Wil Trapp and Ben Speas started at Real Salt Lake on August 24. Wiet played one year collegiately at the University of Indiana before transferring to UCLA, where he became a standout defender in his final three seasons. While at Indiana, he earned unanimous selection to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team before being voted UCLA’s Defensive MVP in his sophomore season in 2010. He would repeat the same honor as a Bruin in his junior campaign and added Second Team All-Pac-12 status. In his senior season, he earned First-Team NSCAA All-Far West Region honors, becoming the first UCLA player since 1998 to earn that distinction three years in a row. Wiet logged four starts in his first shortened season with USL-PRO side Dayton in July 2013.
In high school, Wiet was named a two-time All-Ohio and All-District honoree and OSSCA First Team selection and played for the Crew Soccer Academy, reaching the U.S. Soccer Under-18 Development Academy National Tournament Semifinals, finishing the 2008 campaign ranked third nationally.
The Crew begins the 2014 season at D.C. United on Saturday, March 8. Before then, the club continues preparation for both stages of the MLS Re-Entry Draft, the 2014 MLS SuperDraft and preseason training.