The expected arrival of Juan “Cucho” Hernandez on a club-record deal should boost the Columbus Crew’s attack. After Watford’s from the Premier League’s relegation, the Crew signed Hernadez for a $10 million transfer price.
Lucas Zelarayan moved from Tigres for $8 million. He owned the club’s previous record transfer. After 20 goals, six key assists, and winning the MLS Cup and the Campeones Cup, it’s a move that has proven thriving for the Crew. The change was announced days after this cryptic tweet indicating something was on the way.
Hernandez got five goals and assisted two more in 25 Premier League appearances, mostly as a right-winger but sometimes as a centre-striker and on the left. Those figures may not stand out. Given that Watford only scored 34 goals all season, the second-lowest total in the Premier League, being involved in seven goals isn’t terrible.
Since sending Gyasi Zardes to the Colorado Rapids in April, there has been discussion about what the Crew will do to fill their forward vacuum. Now that they have a vacant designated player space. Mauro Manotas was mentioned, but Hernandez was their preferred target over the former Houston Dynamo attacker. With the team now ranked 11th out of 14 in the Eastern Conference, acquiring him might propel them into the postseason hunt.
Why is the Crew after Hernandez?
To begin, we must go into the rabbit hole of underperforming forwards. Zelarayan is the Crew’s leading scorer this season. However, owing to injuries, he has yet to play 900 minutes. Miguel Berry, who inspired the Crew to trade Zardes, scored only two goals and assisted on none. It created a large vacuum above the formation for Caleb Porter’s troops and hampered the attack. Derrick Etienne has been highly efficient with three goals and five assists from the flank. Still, he and Zelarayan cannot do it alone.
Hernandez, who averaged three headers per 90 minutes in the Premier League, would be able to step in and take set plays when Zelerayan is unavailable. Hernandez, with a strong work rate and above-average finishing, can assist the Crew’s attack, increase the pace, and generate a threatening attack all around. He’d usually play as a striker. Porter values his versatility to play any position in an offensive three since it allows him to mix and match his teams.
Why would Hernandez want to shift?
MLS is becoming a springboard for young players worldwide since they may come to America and, if they perform well, obtain a more significant transfer somewhere. Suppose Hernandez wants to establish that he can play as a striker rather than a winger. In that case, MLS is the best location for him to do it since guiding the Crew to the playoffs would almost certainly result in his return to Europe.
If things don’t work out, MLS remains a terrific destination with outstanding play, loyal supporters, and top-notch facilities. It is why more European-based players are moving to the United States. The transfer suggests that teams in Europe were unwilling to pay Watford’s asking price. It also indicates that Hernandez may come to the Crew with a chip on his shoulder, hoping to move back. That would be beneficial to both parties.
Being a summer signing is difficult since there is instant demand to contribute to the team’s success. The Crew has struggled this season, sitting three points behind the postseason line but needing to pass four clubs to get there. The good news is that, despite their struggles, the defence has been rather solid, allowing only 17 goals in 14 games. There is plenty of room for growth in an offence that has been one of the worst in MLS. Hence Hernandez is vital. Still, the core is there with Darlington Nagbe, Zelerayan, and Etienne Hernandez won’t need to do everything.
If the deal goes through, he may begin training with the team and have time to settle in before the summer transfer window starts on July 7th. This would allow him to debut against the Chicago Fire on July 9th. Two to three weeks of training may be all he needs to hit the ground running for the final 20 games of the season. It’s considerable being involved in 10 goals for him to be successful. Provided he’s available for every match, but something along the lines of a goal contribution every other game would be a huge help. It would also certainly result in the Crew making the playoffs, which would be a huge accomplishment in their first season.