Lucas Zelarayan Arrives in Columbus


There were fans chanting and waiving flags and banners. Excited Crew supporters were proudly wearing their black and gold.

However, this wasn't MAPFRE Stadium. It wasn't a road game, either. It was an airfield in Columbus, where Lucas Zelarayan was making his first ever appearance in the city.

"I choose Columbus," he told those gathered.

This was greeted by the applause of those who believe Zelarayan is more than just another player. After all, Columbus paid a team-record transfer fee for the attacking midfielder, more than $7 million dollars according to several reports.

"The relevancy of this team has just hit new heights," said Crew president Tim Bezbatchenko after the ceremony. "It's only going to continue to build over the next 12 months."

While Bezbatchenko talked about building, Zelarayan talked about being part of a "project."

In fact, it was the first thing he mentioned when he spoke, through a translator, about the draws that brought him to Ohio. "This project, a new stadium, and I think this a great step forward in my career," he listed as the main reasons he signed with the Crew.

For the past four years, the Argentinian was in Liga MX, the top Mexican soccer league, and scored 23 goals with 14 assists for his club, Tigres UANL.

Prior to that, from 2013-2015, Zelarayan scored 10 goals and registered six assists in his home country playing for Club Atletico Belgrano.

Zelarayan will join the Crew as a designated player. These are players whose compensation and acquisition fees above a certain level (depending on the player's age) can surpass what cap restrictions would normally permit.

The reason Columbus made Zelarayan one of the three designated players they are permitted to have on their roster is that they expect the offense to flow through him as their new "10," which is the position once held by fellow Argentinian Federico Higuain.

"We ended really well, the last 14 games" said head coach Caleb Porter of this past season. "We still needed to add up the spine: a center back who's a leader, a guy who can organize the line a little bit, and then we needed a number 10."

With the addition of Zelaryan and the earlier offseason signing of Vito Wormgoor, Columbus has filled both those roles.

“It’s a new level for the Crew,” Bezbatchenko said. “We’re trying to do something different than we have in the past.”