April 16, 2008

Just as the MLS transfer window was closing, the Columbus Crew picked up Nigerian Under-23 National Team midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo to add to a side that has started out the season on a positive note with a 2-1 record.

The 20-year-old, who has spent time training with the crew this past month, comes to Major League Soccer after starting his professional career in the Nigerian Premier League with Rovers of Calabar, Akwa United and, most recently, Enyimba FC.

"We are thrilled to get this significant signing in within the transfer window," said Crew Technical Director Brian Bliss in a statement. "Our group has put a lot of work into this process, from getting him into preseason training so we could evaluate him to getting all of the paperwork completed behind the scenes. We now look forward to getting him integrated back into the team so he can do what we all think he is capable of."

Ekpo recently helped Nigeria qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, as part of the side that defeated South Africa 3-0 on March 26. In addition to his U-23 experience, he has played with the full Super Eagles side in African Games qualifying.

"We are very excited to have Emmanuel join our team," said Crew Head Coach Sigi Schmid. "He played well with us in Florida (during preseason) and he presents a number of options for us. He has the ability to play in the attacking part of midfield, centrally, and out wide, as well. He is a player with international experience and a very bright future ahead of him."

Columbus goes on the road to face D.C. United on Thursday night on national television.

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