1. Lucas Zelarayan
Allow me to introduce the new shiny club-record signing, Lucas Zelarayan. The $7 million attacking midfielder takes over the mantel of Argentine playmaking number ten that was vacated by Federico Higuain and before him Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
Since 2007, the Columbus Crew has relied on an attacking midfielder from Argentina to create the bulk of their attack. When the Crew reached the pinnacle of MLS, this playmaker is not only scoring goals and assists but also dictating the tempo of the match. This is what Zelarayan must now provide.
Zelarayan is a better pure athlete than both Higuain and Schelotto. The former DPs were more in the mold of crafty readers of the game who had ingenious distribution and cute touches, flicks and tricks. Zelarayan has a burst of speed to separate from his marker, he draws fouls in dangerous areas, and drives at and past defenders. He is a driver, not just a creator.
One concern when it comes to Zelarayan is his ability to raise the game of his teammates. This is something that the two previous DPs could do every match, be it with a clever pass to open up space or inspiring through a late defensive effort. At Tigres, Zelarayan was not the first option in attack and even became a rotational player in recent months.
The Crew need Zelarayan to be their leading light, their star creator, the chief DP who takes them to another level. He is capable, but can Caleb Porter get the best out of him?