Friday, January 26, 2018

Crew sign Valenzuela, 19

Columbus signs Milton Valenzuela, a 19-year-old left wing back from Argentina, as the 3 official Designated Player after buying down Jonathan Mensah's wages with allocation money.

Being a younger player, Valenzuela will only cost the Crew something like $250k in terms of a budget number, but I expect his actual wage to be somewhere near double that considering the transfer fee is being reported at around $1.3 million.

Valenzuela's resume is highlighted by starts on the U20 Argentina team. Other than that, details are fairly limited. In the game world, EA FIFA likes his potential (77 rating), but more or less an average player at the moment. FM Scout has him listed in top 100 wonderkids as far as left wing backs are concerned.

Projected Crew Starters
Meram - Higuain - Santos
Trapp - Artur
Valenzuela - Mensah - Sauro - Afful

That's a fairly strong MLS starting lineup, with strength and balance all over the field. I expect the play between Santos and Higuain alone to make Columbus enough of a force to pull them towards the top of MLS (top 8, if I may be so bold).


The big question mark right now remains with the production of Zardes. He'll need to produce more than 10 goals in order to get this team into the MLS elite. Last year the East has four teams with over 60 goals. Columbus fans are familiar with the output of a number of players. Optimistically, you expect 25-30 or so from Justin Meram, Federico Higuain and Pedro Santos with means you'll need at least 10 from Zardes to get to 40 and have the rest of the team (namely; Mike Grella) to fill in the remaining dozen goals to make the Crew a viable playoff team.


Again, this team has a nice balance to it. If Gaston Sauro is healthy, I can see Columbus putting up a few more shutouts than last year. So, while Ola Kamara is gone, they may make up for the lack of scoring by stopping their opponents (particularly if Zack Steffen continues to improve, and of course, stay).


I'm estimating it to be about in line with last year; $6.3 - 6.5 million. What this means is that the team is just about complete in building its Spring / Summer roster. There's room for another pretty good player, perhaps to challenge Zardes up top, but I don't expect it to be much of anything.

The team is already covered if Justin Meram moves on because of the Grella signing. That said, if Meram were to go I expect Gregg Berhalter to go shopping.


Columbus were / did get gutted at the left back position in the offseason (Jukka Raitala and Waylon Francis are gone via various expansion related things). Valenzuela has a huge opportunity here to grow into that role. The idea of a young Argentinian playing a wing back role is exciting and different (for MLS) but there are lots of question marks. "Unproven" being the big one.

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