Young midfielder Artur steps up as unsung hero of Columbus Crew SC's run

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Quiet and unassuming: two descriptors for Columbus Crew SC central midfielder Artur.

Signed on loan from Brazilian side Sao Paulo FC in February, the 21-year-old left his native country for the first time shortly before the start of the MLS regular season, but quickly became a mainstay in the Black & Gold lineup.

“The way he’s adapted to the country, the way he’s adapted to the team, to the city has been phenomenal,” Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter said of Artur. “He’s a young player, people forget that.”

Although Brazilians are traditionally known for flair in their attacking play, Artur became more of a grinder in the heart of the Columbus midfield. Paired with captain Wil Trapp for much of 2017, the two developed a solid partnership. But injuries and the performance of fellow midfielder Mohammed Abu saw Artur start only three of the team’s final 10 matches of the regular season.

When the Black & Gold reached the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs, however, Berhalter turned back to the Brazilian to help fight for 120 minutes to earn a penalty shootout win in the Knockout Round at Atlanta United. Artur was again in the starting lineup in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal 4-1 victory over New York City FC on Tuesday where he scored his first career MLS goal.

“It was great. You could see it in his reaction,” Trapp said of his teammate’s finish. “He’s such a hard worker. He does so much for us and for him to score a goal was wonderful, especially in this game.”

For Artur, it was only the second goal of his professional career, the first coming while playing at the under-20 level.

“I feel very good,” he said of the finish. “I was trying to score my first goal and I feel happy to help my teammates to score my first goal.”

With Crew SC up a goal and a man in the second half after a red card to NYCFC center back Alexander Callens, the home side looked to increase the lead before the away leg on Sunday (5 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes; TSN, TVAS in Canada).

As has been the case all season, it was Artur’s work rate that helped force a turnover in midfield and spring the counterattack. Playmaker Federico Higuain picked out Artur in the penalty box and a quick cutback opened space for an important finish to add to the lead in the aggregate goal series.

“It’s very important,” Artur said. “We were talking about keeping going, push up and I think we did well. We scored goals. We take the advantage of having one man more on the field and I think we did well.”

On Tuesday night, in a game where Columbus needed goals, it was a player who usually left the attacking to his teammates stepping up to ensure a victory with the winner.

“It was a good fake with the left there and then he faked [Sean] Johnson too,” forward Ola Kamara said. “It was a really good. Almost a little bit Brazilian.”