COLUMBUS, Ohio — As reliable as a good car battery, Sebastián Miranda provides stability at one of the positions that was in question before the season in Columbus.
When the Crew let popular right back and captain Frankie Hejduk go after the 2010 season, the team acted quickly to fill the void by signing the veteran Chilean in December.
To say he has played spectacularly would not be accurate — there's no spectacle about the 31-year-old’s game. But Miranda has been a major reason the Crew are in first place in the Eastern Conference despite “refreshing the roster,” in the words of coach Robert Warzycha.
Miranda is the only player to start every game for the Crew and has been on the field for all but 16 minutes this season.
“He’s an incredibly smart player, has tons of experience, does all the right things and is extremely responsible,” goalkeeper William Hesmer said. “He’s a pleasure to have as a teammate.”
It’s what Miranda doesn’t do that endears him to his teammates: He rarely fouls.
“You never want to be facing a plethora of restarts,” Hesmer said. “So far, we haven’t had to worry about too many coming in from our right side.”
Even though Miranda committed one-third of his season infractions last Saturday against New England, his 12 fouls for the year are the second-fewest of any player who has appeared in at least 24 games. Heath Pearce of Chivas USA has been whistled 11 times.
By comparison, Hejduk committed 25 fouls in 20 games last season, and compiled four cautions and one red card. Miranda received his third yellow card against the Revolution.
“[Miranda] has knowledge and reads the game very well,” Warzycha said. “He processes information quickly and adjusts quickly.”
Warzycha said Miranda’s low foul total is even more impressive because he is new to the league and is still adapting to the style and nuances of the opposing players and referees. Fortunately, he didn’t have to worry about Miranda fitting in with his teammates and Warzycha quickly made him part of the inner circle of leaders.
“One of the things we try to find out about the players we bring in is their personalities,” Warzycha said. “We had a lot of good positive feedback from the people we know. That’s why bringing him here was a no-brainer.”
Miranda said the biggest changes since coming to Columbus are off the field for him and his wife, María, and their young son Joaquim. María is taking afternoon English classes while Sebastián plays stay-at-home dad after practice.
“In Chile, I have my family and friends,” he said. “Here, I have only my son and my wife, but we are very happy here. We spend much time together and try to know the city and country. I try to know the American culture and speak English as much as possible.”