COLUMBUS, Ohio – The acquisition on Thursday of Costa Rican striker Jairo Arrieta is the first of possibly two steps to improve the sputtering Columbus Crew offense.
Arrieta was signed from Deportivo Saprissa, where he has scored 45 goals in 161 games over the past five seasons and was a teammate of new Crew forward Olman Vargas for several years.
“It’s a good thing a player of his class and ability who works hard is coming,” Vargas said on Thursday.
Arrieta, who has three caps with the Costa Rican national team, will be eligible to play for the Crew when the transfer window opens June 27.
Head coach Robert Warzycha welcomed the move in no small measure because the Crew are 2-3-1 and have scored just six times.
“I like to bring some new blood in the middle of the season,” he said. “If something doesn’t work you have a guy who can change it. A good example is Houston last year. They traded a little bit, brought some new blood and since midseason went all the way to the MLS [Cup] final.”
And Arrieta might not be the only new face. Technical director Brian Bliss told MLSsoccer.com earlier this week the club is pursuing a South American forward to complement the offseason additions of Vargas and Chilean midfielder Milovan Mirosevic.
“[The potential DP] doesn’t have to be an out-and-out goalscorer, but he has to have the ability to score goals and also set guys up whether that’s nifty passing or setting guys up off the dribble,” Bliss said.
Columbus have ample funds to pay a Designated Player to replace last year’s DP Andrés Mendoza, since anyone who comes in during the next window would only be for half a season’s salary and cap hit. The Crew also have plans to reserve a roster spot.
In the case of Arrieta, though, Bliss said decisions will have to be made when he is activated in two months. The Crew are at 32 players, two over the limit, but forward Tommy Heinemann is out for the season because of knee surgery and goalkeeper William Hesmer likely is as well following hip surgery. Arrieta will provide a different look up top – he has more speed and guile than Vargas, Emilio Rentería and Aaron Schonfeld – but Warzycha said not to be fooled by Arrieta’s small stature (5-foot-9, 150 pounds).
“He’s not a big guy but he can hold his own against bigger defenders,” Warzycha said. “That’s his strength.”
The Crew staff liked the way Arrieta played against them in the CONCACAF Champions League two years ago and tried to sign him along with Vargas, in January.
However, Saprissa lost Josué Martínez to the Philadelphia Union in December and were reluctant to part with their other top forward until now, since Arrieta will be out of contract soon. As a result, Columbus did not have to pay a transfer fee, according to Bliss.