Columbus expecting more from latest South American crop

Crew sign midfielder Matías Sánchez

Photo Credit: 
Courtesy of Columbus Crew

Projecting which foreign players will adapt to playing in MLS and living in the United States is an inexact science.

Over the past few seasons, the Columbus Crew have had mixed results with their high-profile overseas signings, but hope the acquisitions of defender/midfielder Agustín Viana, defender Gláuber and midfielder Matías Sánchez (above left, with head coach Robert Warzycha) for the 2013 season mirror the success of last year's most recent newcomers.

The arrivals of Costa Rican forward Jairo Arrieta in July and Argentine forward Federico Higuaín the next month reenergized the team and provided offensive weapons that had been missing.

The duo's play helped offset the disappointing returns from two major 2012 preseason signings. Neither Midfielder Milovan Mirosevic of Chile nor Costa Rican Olman Vargas made the impact the Crew wanted and are no longer with the team.

READ: Crew hope to hit gold with Sanchez

"Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you don't because we're in the people business," Crew technical director Brian Bliss said. "It's not easy. You select a player because he's played well and you've scouted him, but when you get him here it's a different scenario."

There are times when off-field issues affect a player, such as his family not feeling comfortable in a new environment. The Crew said that was the case with Mirosevic, although what they considered his subpar performance had them searching for other midfield options in the offseason.

"That's what happened to Milo," Warzycha said. "The family couldn't adjust because they missed their family back home. That happens to probably five percent of the players we bring in here."

Warzycha, a Poland native, played in Hungary and England before bringing his family to Columbus in 1996 to finish his playing career, so he understands the alienation some players and their families feel.

"It's difficult because they don't have any relatives [here] and you have small kids," he said. "You can go on vacation and see all your family if you're from here. You feel better. As good as this country is, family is important and we don't have any here. That's why it's hard for players and their families to adjust."

READ: For now, Oduro finds home with Columbus on right flank

He noted that the transition is easier for the players than their families because they are always around teammates and can make friends quicker.

"Every man would say you take care of your family," Warzycha said. "If your wife is not happy, the kids are not happy, then you have to make a change."

As for Gláuber (Brazil), Sánchez (Argentina) and Viana (Uruguay), their adjustment could be smoother because of the Crew’s South American contingent, which includes Higuaín and Argentine assistant coach Ricardo Iribarren.

Gláuber has already praised the outreach he’s received from Higuain.

"He helps me so much here,” said the Brazilian center back. “You come to a new city and don't know anything. He has helped me to get to know the players. It is very good."

Viana said his new teammates have made him feel like "one of them."

That's no surprise to retired Crew defender Frankie Hejduk, who was not necessarily greeted with open arms when he joined German club Bayer Leverkusen in 1998.

"The difference there was, they see a foreigner as someone coming in trying to take their job," he said. "I think players in America, in MLS welcome the new guys because they know if they're here they were brought in to help the team. It's a different mentality.”