In the third instalment of Elmer Plasencia‘s tour of Argentinians currently plying their trades in Major League Soccer, we swing by the Midwest to see what’s going on at Columbus Crew…
Columbus Crew SC was one of the ten founding members of Major League Soccer. The city of Columbus and the club have been a large part of the history of MLS, the club was the first to build a soccer-specific stadium and had over 12,000 season tickets in its first season. On the pitch the club has had its share of success, winning the MLS Cup in 2008, The Supporters’ Shield on 3 occasions (2004, 2008 & 2009) and The US Open Cup in 2002.
Crew SC has a history of using Argentinians as key pieces through the years. Over the 23 year history of the club has used 14 different Argentinians. Two of these Argentinians were part of the 2008 MLS Cup winning side, Gino Padula and Guillermo Barros Schelotto were starters on that team with Schelotto winning league MVP honors. Schelotto has since become a successful manager winning a Copa Sudamericana with Lanús and two league titles with Boca Juniors.
Gregg Berhalter came to Columbus in November of 2013. Widely regarded as one of the best tactical minds in MLS, he has brought a possession based system to Crew SC which heavily relies on Federico Higuaín to control the tempo and create attacking opportunities. In its 2018 squad, Berhalter uses three Argentinians as the team pushes for the MLS Playoffs.
Higuaín became Columbus Crew’s third ever Designated Player in July of 2012. Pipa as the fans call him, grew up in River Plate’s youth system and made his debut for the club in 2003. He later made moves to Besiktas in Turkey, Club América in México and several clubs in Argentina. Prior to coming to Columbus he made over 225 professional appearances and scored over 50 goals. His namesake came with high expectations as his brother, Gonzalo, is a regular for the Argentina national team.
Upon his arrival he made an instant impact earning MLS Newcomer of the Year honors. In his seven seasons with the team he has become a club legend. Pipa is eighth all-time in appearances with 187, fourth all-time in goals with 54 and second in assists with 61.
In April, he signed a one year extension with the club through the end of the 2018 season. In the past, Pipa has voiced his love for Columbus, its fans and the club but with the looming uncertainty on the potential move to Austin it is hard to tell whether Pipa will stay with the club past 2018. Regardless, Pipa will go down as a club legend in Columbus.
Sauro came to the club in August of 2015, the tall defender came to strengthen a backline that was struggling. Prior to coming to MLS, Gastón started his career with Boca Juniors, later moving to Basel and Catania making over 75 professional appearances at just 25 years old.
In his first season with the club he made eight appearances as Columbus made a run to the MLS Cup Final. He had a strong start to 2016 becoming a regular in the lineup, making 13 appearances before sustaining a severe knee injury which kept him off the field for over two years. The club signed him to an extension in the 2018 offseason, since Gastón has made four appearances this year as he continues to return to form. He is very popular in the locker room developing friendships with many of his teammates and he started his family in Columbus and seems settled into the city.
Valenzuela, a starter for the Argentina Under-20 World Cup squad signed with Crew SC in January of 2018. The club’s first player signed under the Young DP designation, Berhalter and his staff targeted Valenzuela for quite a while. Prior to coming to MLS, he spent his youth career with Newell’s Old boys where he made his professional debut at 18 and made 13 appearances for his boyhood club.
Since joining Columbus, Valenzuela has made an impact for Columbus appearing in 23 matches. He has developed his attacking game and embraced the system in Columbus which demands fullbacks to join the attack. This season, he has scored one goal, made three assists and been solid defensively for the Black & Gold. Columbus does have an option to purchase Valenzuela after the season and with his performances it would be no surprise to see him back next season.
In the next installation of Argentinos Abroad we will be heading to the United States capital. We will be looking at one of the other ten founding members of MLS, DC United who like Columbus have a long history of using Argentinians and currently have two young playmakers on the roster.
Elmer Plasencia is a Peruvian living in Columbus, Ohio. Spending nearly the first decade of his life in Trujillo, Peru and Mar de Ajo, Argentina he fell in love with all things football. Moving to Ohio in 2000 he has become a fan of Major League Soccer, particularly Columbus Crew SC. Making a living working as a product specialist in Corporate America. Elmer spends his free time watching, playing and writing about the beautiful game. He pays special attention to River Plate, Barcelona and West Ham United.
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