COLUMBUS, Ohio – No one was going to replace the charisma and passion of Frankie Hejduk when the Crew captain was released following the 2010 season, but Sebastian Miranda has been everything the club hoped for when the Chilean was acquired in December.
“He’s been an unbelievable addition to our team,” goalkeeper William Hesmer said. “He makes our back line stronger. He’s very responsible. He’s a good leader. He’s a guy you just don’t have to worry about.”
Miranda seamlessly moved into Hejduk’s right back spot as one of three new defenders on the team and has helped the Crew (3-1-3) yield just two goals during their current six-game unbeaten streak.
"I heard he was a solid right back, and he’s exactly as advertised,” said the lone defensive holdover, center back Chad Marshall. “He’s quick, good on the tackle, gets forward well and is a good crosser.”
Miranda, 30, has spent nine of the past 10 years playing professionally in Chile – he had a brief stint in Austria in 2005 – most recently as the captain for Unión Española.
“It’s a very physical league,” Miranda said of MLS. “There’s not much difference between one team and another. [In Chile], there’s probably more differences between the teams; one could be smaller, one could be bigger.”
The defender has enjoyed a solid performance thus far in MLS. Up until now, he’s made just one glaring mistake – when he played the ball and not the man as a chip pass went over him to Toronto FC’s Tony Tchani for the goal that ended the Crew’s 414-minute scoreless streak.
Miranda quickly made amends when his cross was headed in by Emilio Renteria for the 1-1 tie.
“He’s exactly what we thought he would be,” coach Robert Warzycha said. “He’s an example for everybody. They’re feeding off him because he’s playing so well. He’s a very good pro.”
Warzycha noted Miranda’s leadership qualities and invited him to be part of a semi-regular meeting between veterans and the staff.
“It’s very important for me,” Miranda said through a translator. “It makes me feel important that they take my opinion into consideration.”
He’s overcome two obstacles - being a newcomer and not knowing the language very well – by not changing his approach to the game.
“My style is the same,” he said. “I like to organize, to talk to people, work with the younger people. That’s the way I am.”
He even showed that he’s picking up the vocabulary quickly. When asked if language is a barrier, he smiled and, in English, said “sometimes.”
“We’ve always had good communication,” Marshall said. “He’s talking and he understands everything I’m saying.”
While no one wanted to compare Miranda to the popular Hejduk, who is now with the LA Galaxy after eight seasons in Columbus, they have similar traits.
“They’re dependable,” Hesmer said. “[Miranda’s] going to shut down the right side.”
“Frankie liked to go forward and Sebastián likes to go forward, too,” Warzycha said.