OBETZ, Ohio – Coach Robert Warzycha makes it very clear that Argentine attacking midfielder Santiago Prim, who was signed Tuesday, is not the immediate cure for the offensive woes that have plagued the Crew all season.
“He’s a prospect,” Warzycha said. “I don’t want anybody to be confused. He is not going to play the next game [vs. Vancouver on Saturday]. He’s like other developmental players; he needs some time.”
Prim, who turns 21 on May 11, was out of contract for Argentine club San Lorenzo de Almagro and had trained with the Crew during the preseason.
It would be tempting to think Prim could spark a team that has just five goals in six games, but Warzycha said Prim isn’t ready.
“He was without a team for a month-and-a-half,” he said. “He needs to get fit first.”
Prim understands he is not going to step into the starting 11 right away.
“I want to show the coach I belong on this team and belong on the first team,” he said through a translator. “These are decisions for the coach. Hopefully I can make it this year and will fight as hard as possible.”
He didn’t follow MLS closely but knew that countryman Guillermo Barros Schelotto was a star with the Crew before being released in the offseason.
“Every time there’s an Argentine player abroad, we know about it, especially if the player is doing well like [Schelotto] did here,” Prim said. “I knew about it and as soon as Columbus was put on my table, it was a very easy decision.”
He should feel comfortable in Columbus because Crew assistant Ricardo Iribarren is from Argentina, and the South American player connection includes Bernardo Anor and Emilio Renteria from Venezuela, Andres Mendoza from Peru and Chile’s Sebastian Miranda.
“It’s always easier if you have people who speak the same language and to have someone from your own country to act a counselor,” Prim said.
Iribarren, who joined the Crew in 1996 as a 29-year-old player and didn’t speak English at the time, advises Prim to immerse himself in the new language.
“It’s up to him if he wants to learn English, which I think is going to help a lot not only on the field but for living in Columbus,” he said. “I would recommend he watch TV and put the caption on. I bought an English-Spanish dictionary and read it all day. That helped me, too.”
Iribarren remembers the two English words in particular were hard to master at first, “Daughter. The g-h-t, there’s no way you can say that in Spanish. Thirteen, too. The t-h, come on, it’s too difficult.”
He feels Prim’s youthfulness will help him learn the language quicker and be an asset on the field as well.
“He’s a young talent,” Iribarren said. “That’s a plus for us. Maybe when you bring in an older player he has habits that are kind of tough to change but with Prim you can tell him how to play the way we want him to play.”
The Crew placed defender Danny O’Rourke (left knee surgery) on the injured reserve list retroactive to Friday and will have five games before making a move to remain at the 30-man limit.